The rap on Japanese fighters is that they do well in hometown promotions like DREAM and Sengoku, but when forced to fight in a cage in the U.S., they buckle. A Japanese fighter has never held a title belt from the UFC or WEC. Before his Strikeforce title bout with Gilbert Melendez, lightweight Shinya Aoki said that if he lost, MMA in Japan would be over. Well, he lost.
Someone didn't tell that to Yushin Okami and Takanori Gomi.
Both fighters won handily at UFC on Versus 2. Though Gomi said that he "learned to fight American," he won by returning to his bread and butter striking. Okami did it with textbook takedown defense. His sprawl — laces down with flexible hips — was good enough to stop an elite collegiate wrestler in Mark Munoz.
Now, Okami may get the shot to be the first Japanese fighter to win a UFC championship. UFC president Dana White said last week that a win might put Okami in line for a shot at the middleweight belt. From MMAjunkie.com:
"Winning this fight would be big," White said. "I say it all the time, you know, Yushin Okami is one of the best 185-pounders in the world and has been for a while. This guy's due for a title shot."
Apparently, Japanese MMA is far from over. It looks as if it's just getting warmed up.
- Yushin Okami
- Gilbert Melendez
- Takanori Gomi