by Ricardo Mendoza – MMAWeekly.com
Yushin Okami will be looking to improve his UFC record to 2-0 on Saturday night, when he takes on Ultimate Fighter 3 alumni Kalib Starnes in a middleweight bout. Okami made his UFC debut earlier this year at UFC 62 against late replacement Alan Belcher. Starnes is making his UFC PPV debut on the under card of UFC 64 after being on The Ultimate Fighter 3.
Okami has had a positive year so far after getting noticed by the general MMA public after being in the Rumble on the Rock welterweight tournament earlier this year. Starnes was picked as a favorite to be the middleweight winner of TUF 3, but a rib injury cost him in the semi-finals.
Yushin Okami has a 17-3 record in MMA and trains out of Wajyutsu Keisyukai Tokyo with Caol Uno. Okami last saw action at UFC 62, where he won a decision over Belcher. Okami was able to impose his pace and controlled the fight on the feet and on the ground, even surviving a late charge from Belcher in the third round. Okami beat longtime Pancrase veteran Izuru Takechi at a GCM: Demolition show in June with a rear naked choke. He lost a controversial decision to Jake Shields at Rumble on the Rock 9. Okami got a win over Anderson Silva – who is challenging Rich Franklin tonight – at Rumble on the Rock 8, when Silva was disqualified for an illegal up kick that knocked out Okami. His only losses have come to top competition like Amar Suloev and two controversial decision losses to Falaniko Vitale and to Jake Shields. Okami has excellent ground skills and has good striking but has questionable cardio.
Kalib Starnes has a 7-0-1 record in MMA and trains out of the Revolution Fight Team with HEROS veteran Kultar Gill. He is coming off an easy win over the undersized Danny Abbadi with a rear naked choke in the first round at the TUF 3 Finale. Starnes was considered a favorite to win the middleweight competition of TUF 3 but a rib injury during his semi-final fight with Kendall Grove forced him to give-up. Starnes earned his spot on TUF 3 with an upset win over recent debuting UFC fighter Jason MacDonald by submission. He has never gone to a decision in his short MMA career and has finished the majority of his fights by submission. Starnes has great ground skills and decent stand-up, so he matches up well with Okami in what should be a great fight.
The UFC is doing a great job in trying to become a more international competition by bringing in more fighters from Europe, Japan and Brazil. Okami is a top middleweight in Japan but has been the victim of under exposure. Starnes will be looking to get past the stigma of being on TUF by proving that he is the real deal and isn’t just a reality TV star fighter. Okami is facing a tough fighter in Starnes but he shouldn’t have too much trouble with Starnes as both fighters are primarily ground fighters and Okami is definitely the better of the two on the ground. Okami has had a tendency to fade in the latter stages of fights and that’s when Starnes will have his best shot at catching him in a submission. Okami should be able to control the pace of the fight and once its on the ground it should only be matter of time before he submits Starnes and moves on in the UFC middleweight division.
Prediction: Yushin Okami by submission in the first round