If you have been following the UFC lately, you have been hearing how the UFC has been using its business muscle to acquire overseas fighters. That international superstars have responded with enthusiasm to fight for the American organization results in a “win-win” for fans and the UFC alike by setting the bar even higher in terms of fighting ability and spectacular match-ups. The UFC has had its share of European and Brazilian fighters grace the cage, but very few fighters from Japan, despite the country producing a conglomerate of top-class competitors. However, Joe Silva, matchmaker for the UFC, has taken bold steps to attract more Japanese fighters and a new wave has responded in kind, gracing the Octagon and making an impression.
Japanese Fighters on the Rise
The Japanese fighter to catch the most attention of the UFC, fans, and fighters has been the very dangerous Yushin Okami. Okami, since his debut, has been on a tear, putting away TUF veterans very decisively and inching his way to the top of the Middleweight bracket. Okami has adapted well to the cage (a format not common in Japan) and has adjusted to the “American-style” of MMA, an approach that utilizes aggression and overwhelming opponents, unlike the “Japanese-style” of MMA, an approach to MMA more focused on out-“techniquing” competitors. Hopefully, Okami’s strategy of dragging out fights to the third round, something that has been favorable to Okami, but not to the patience of UFC fans will win over a few if he’s able to repeat against Swick what he has done against his previous two competitors. However, Swick will be Okami’s toughest challenge yet in the UFC.
The UFC’s acquisition of Naoyuki Kotani has been the buzz of the most hardcore of MMA fans. Kotani, a veteran of the ZST organization in Japan, is a great all-around fighter who is capable of making an impression in the UFC with savvy on the ground and strong stand-up technique. Unfortunately, his lack of consistency has cost him fights that could have made him a regular in larger organizations with the most infamous being an 11 second appearance via KO in the Pride organization. However, second chances do come to those who work hard and Kotani is a fighter with all the tools to make an impression. A debut win over a very game and undefeated Thiago Tavares, who is also making his UFC debut, would certainly give Kotani the legitimacy to actually have his fights aired in future UFC events.
Hyped Fighters Falling Short
When the UFC acquired Dokonjonosuke Mishima, many in the MMA community were quite sure Mishima would soon be clearing a path to contend for the Lightweight title. Or maybe it was just me. Regardless, Joe Stevenson almost squeezed the life out of any hope of Mishima making any kind of positive debut with a Guillotine choke forcing Mishima to tap in the opening minutes of the first round. Even Joe Rogan was shocked to see Mishima caught so easily on the third Guillotine attempt after all the hype leading to the fight. If Mishima wants to continue a career in the UFC, nothing short of blasting Florian out of the water must take place, but if Mishima is getting caught by lackluster Guillotine chokes, Florian might simply be way too much for the once promising Japanese contender.
Former Shooto Japan standout Keita Nakamura was another fighter heralded to make an impression in the UFC Welterweight division only to come short in his UFC debut. Nakamura didn’t look as bad as Mishima in his debut, but regardless, Nakamura was coming into the UFC with an undefeated record and wealth of fight experience fighting the Japanese MMA circuit and a very tough Brock Larson didn’t seem too impressed with such notoriety. Nakamura will have his next chance to finally showcase his skill against a very popular TUF veteran Drew Fickett, who will certainly try to use Nakamura as a notch under his belt. This fight will be nothing short of fireworks for sure.
Ultimate Fight Night 9 will showcase many returning Japanese fighters who have not been successful in their UFC debuts. Hopefully this time around, these fighters will represent their country’s MMA community much better and showcase the vast talent of technique-oriented fighting style that many in the MMA world have raved about. However, being able to adjust to a different pace, platform, and overall set-up is all part of the world of MMA.
-Bardia, BuddyTV Staff Columnist
(Photo Courtesy of Sherdog.com)