UFC cuts Yushin Okami and TUF 16 runner-up Mike Ricci

Yushin Okami was, and probably remains, one of the best middleweight mixed martial arts fighters in the world. But the UFC cut him, along with lightweight Mike Ricci, on Friday because Okami wasn't beating the best of the best, and it needed to clear roster space to develop young challengers who might.

Okami, 32, is 29-8 in his mixed martial arts career and 13-5 in the UFC. But he was routed by Anderson Silva in a title match at UFC 134 in 2011 and has also lost to Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza, Chael Sonnen, Tim Boetsch and Rich Franklin in the UFC. The loss to Franklin was a title eliminator match.

UFC president Dana White had referred to Okami as "the best fighter ever to come out of Japan" several times, but said it was Okami's lack of a signature win that doomed him with the UFC.

Okami's best UFC victories were over Mark Munoz, Nate Marquardt and Alan Belcher.

"He's been with us forever," White said of Okami, who first fought in the UFC in 2006. "He was always a tough guy and was right up there, but it's almost like he'd become a gatekeeper. I like Okami, and you've heard me say this many times, that a win over Yushin Okami meant something.

"But he was never able to get over the hump and win one of those [significant] fights. We have a lot of guys coming in and I've been saying this all year: We have a full roster and there are guys who deserve opportunities. When you bring guys in, someone has to go. That's why these fights are so meaningful."

The UFC also dropped Ricci, a lightweight who lost to Myles Jury last week at UFC 165 in Toronto, White said. Ricci was the runner-up to Colton Smith at "The Ultimate Fighter 16," but had scored the season's Knockout of the Year in the semifinals when he knocked out Neil Magny.

Ricci, who was 1-2 in the UFC, defeated Colin Fletcher at UFC 158 for his only official win in the organization.