by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
In a pivotal match-up between two top middleweights, MMAWeekly.com has confirmed that on Dec. 27 Yushin Okami will return from a lingering hand injury to face submission wizard Dean Lister, as confirmed by Lister’s management group at Haymaker’s Empire.
“It’s a really good fight,” Lister told MMAWeekly.com in an exclusive interview. “(He’s) really skilled, I heard he’s real strong, and I believe he’s a pretty tall guy, he’s a south paw. I’m going to have to have a great gameplan for this guy.”
Lister was originally slated to be a part of the UFC Fight Night 15 show against Thales Leites just last week in Omaha, but a slight knee injury kept him from training at full strength so it kept him off the card.
Now the Pride and King of the Cage veteran arguably gets a much bigger fight taking on Okami, who was tapped to face 185-pound champion Anderson Silva, before the aforementioned hand injury forced him out of the fight.
“I took down Jeremy Horn with an inside trip, and twisted my knee a little bit. Just to where I couldn’t really train with it, that’s all,” Lister commented on his recent injury. “I was hoping to make that fight happen this year, but they already rescheduled the fight with Goran Reljic.”
Okami is one of only a handful of fighters to hold a win over the middleweight champion, albeit from a disqualification after Silva landed an illegal blow that forced a stop to their 2006 fight in Rumble on the Rock.
Lister most recently competed in June, submitting veteran Jeremy Horn, and spent a couple of weeks working with Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic in Croatia to prepare him for his fight in Dream against Alistair Overeem.
“Really good cohesive team over there, they train really hard, training twice a day, every day,” Lister said about his training in Croatia. “I think I lost seven pounds just in those two weeks. The training environment is awesome.”
The middleweight fight will be featured on the main card of the pay-per-view currently headlined by heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira defending his belt against former titleholder Frank Mir.