The UFC on FUEL TV 8 card, scheduled for March 2nd, 2013 in Tokyo, Japan has added a Middleweight bout between Yushin Okami and Hector Lombard. Okami has won 2 fights in a row, last taking out Alan Belcher on the December 29th UFC, while Lombard took out Rousimar Palhares in the opening round of their December 15th bout. Prior to that, both men had losses to Tim Boetsch marring their ascensions into title contention. This match will go a long way to moving the winner back up the ladder. Look for Okami to come in the favorite for this fight when the lines are set at the sportsbooks.
Both fighters are highly skilled, and have maintained solid records against tough competition throughout long careers. Because of Lombard’s more gaudy 32-3-1 record, there may exist a tendency to favor him in the fight, but there are three big factors that this does not take into account.
The first is that Okami will be fighting at home in Japan. Though he has lived in the USA and the Japanese crowd is not the most raucous in the sports world, Okami will fight with a little extra motivation. Additionally, 2 of Lombard’s losses are in Japan, so he has additional pressure on him to perform.
Another factor will be the UFC experience of Okami. Though Lombard has a ton of fights against solid competition, Okami has competed in the UFC going on seven years, and his competition level is just higher. Where Lombard faced feared striker Alexander Shlemenko, Okami faced Anderson Silva. Shlemenko is not only pastier than Silva, he sent on his level. Other Lombard wins recently include rugged fighters Trevor Prangley and Falaniko Vitale, both of whom are probably 5 years past their prime. Okami’s competition level is just better.
Okami is also going to own considerable size and reach advantages over Lombard, and this may be the overall difference in the fight. Okami is a smart fighter, which leads to him being labelled boring at times, but he will likely use his length to stay outside in the stand up game, and if he has to he will use his overall size to smother and control Lombard.
I suspect that if Lombard drops this fight, he will have to take a serious look at losing some of his mass and dropping down to the welterweight division. That may be the best thing for the stocky Cuban, who will grow tired later in the fight if Okami applies pressure the way he should.
Okami should win this fight, so if the line is close, take Okami.