Do you think Yushin Okami brags to ladies at parties that he once defeated Anderson Silva? I bet he does. Why shouldn’t he? A “W” is a “W”, regardless of whether or not it was received as compensation for an illegal upkick. Of course, Okami’s participation in that epic Rumble on the Rock tournament in Hawaii over five years ago was cut short by Jake Shields (who went on to win the whole shebang), and since then Silva has attained “legend” status as the UFC’s reigning middleweight demigod, but that’s beside the point. The Japanese fighter has done well for himself in the Octagon too, and by virtue of his winning – and everyone else worthy of a shot in the division stepping up and getting slaughtered – it’s now time for him to get a crack at the Brazilian and his belt. It’s just a shame that a) Okami’s prior win isn’t from anything he did well but from something Silva wasn’t supposed to do; b) Silva’s polished up his “assassinate other human beings in the guise of a sporting event” skills to perfection; and c) Okami and Silva’s rematch is taking place on Saturday at UFC 134 in Rio de Janeiro, which is one heck of a hometown advantage for the man affectionately known as “The Spider”. To put things in perspective, when the Pentagon Combat promotion kicked off inRio de Janeiroin 1997, the spectators didn’t like how the bout between Renzo Gracie and Eugenio Tadeau was going so someone actually stabbed Gracie in the shoulder through the cage (which resulted in an event-ending riot). What do you think is going to happen to Okami if he starts to get the upper hand? Anyway, UFC 134, Okami and Silva rematch, plus a few other pairings understandably heavy on the Brazilian contingent – let us review.
Anderson Silva vs. Yushin Okami – At his best, Silva is employing karate front snap kicks to KO boxers. At his worst, he’s taking a four and a half round pounding then submitting dudes with triangles. The best case scenario for Okami, therefore, is to channel the wrestling and constant pressure of training partner Chael Sonnen, plus the Jedi skills of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Magneto’s mutant powers. Look, Sonnen did a great job of kicking Silva’s tail, but Okami is no Sonnen. He may be able to lay on Silva for a round or two, and then he’s going to get his acai berries crushed.
Forrest Griffin vs. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua – Another rematch, and another chance for a Brazilian to look good before his home crowd. Or maybe not. When they first met, Shogun seemed to think he could get away with half-assing it in the Octagon, andGriffin outlasted him in a big way before tapping him with a choke. Since then, both men have won and lost the light-heavyweight title, and have alternated between looking sharp and looking dull. However, between the two, it’s been Shogun who’s managed to function at a higher, deadlier level – the dude did clobber Lyoto Machida pretty thoroughly – so if it comes down to a striking exchange,Griffin is likely going down. However, if it comes down to endurance, the TUF 1 winner has proven to have that for days, and he could very well leave Shogun panting and gasping in the dust as he crosses the finish line.
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Brendan Schaub – There’s “old blood versus new blood”, and then there’s Nogueira versus Schaub, which takes that theme to the extreme by pairing a battle-scarred Brazilian legend against a youngster without all the aging and failing joints and limbs. In Nogueira’s favor is the fact that he’s seen and faced everything an opponent can bring; decidedly not in his favor is that Schaub is capable of hitting hard enough that the Brazilian could collapse into a pile of disjointed and twitching body parts. Does “Big Nog” have some fight left in him still? Considering he’s coming off of surgery on his hip and knees, and he admitted to rushing through rehab to fight on the UFC 134 card, I’d say the heart may be willing but his body will fall short.
Ross Pearson vs. Edson Barboza – What does a “Winner of a season of ‘The Ultimate Fighter’” Lucite plaque get you these days? Well, if you’re TUF 9 top dog Pearson, it gets you handily submitted by Cole Miller, then fed to the proverbial wolf with a match-up against Muay Thai demon Barboza. Pearson, you see, is good at standing and banging, while the Brazilian lightweight is good at standing and slaying. Can you guess which fighter is going to need smelling salts after the referee brings a halt to the action?
Luiz Cane vs. Stanislav Nedkov – Light-heavyweight jiu-jitsu and kickboxing specialist Cane hasn’t really set the world on fire in his tenure in the Octagon, but in his defense he’s faced some tough, tough strikers in Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Cyrille Diabate, so getting waxed by their fistic love isn’t anything to be ashamed of. For UFC 134, Cane gets first crack at Bulgarian Sengoku vet Nedkov, who is undefeated and a jiu-jitsu specialist himself, but a very unknown quantity. As such, since Nedkov is taking a big leap up in competition (sorry, wins over Gove Candovski and Yanko Kolev fail to impress me), Cane should have the advantage. Look for the UFC veteran to emerge victorious.