UFC on FOX 29 winner Yushin Okami thought he 'would never be fighting this old,' so why is he?

GLENDALE, Ariz. – When Yushin Okami took a UFC on FOX 29 meeting with Dhiego Lima, he wanted to gauge where he stood within the UFC’s welterweight division.

“Until this fight, I wasn’t really sure where I belonged,” Okami said after the fight at at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Ariz., near Phoenix, through an interpreter.

Okami was, understandably, pleased with the answer he got.

He ended up dominating “The Ultimate Fighter 25” finalist Lima (12-7 MMA, 1-5 UFC) en route to a unanimous-decision win as lopsided as the resulting 30-26 scorecards would indicate. The keys for that weren’t exactly that surprising to those familiar with Okami (35-11 MMA, 14-6 UFC): takedowns and stifling grappling.

That may not always be what gets most fans’ heart rate up. But can you blame the man for sticking with what he knows?

“I have tried striking in my past fights, and it didn’t do too well,” Okami said. “So in terms of this fight, I decided I’m just going to do something I’m good at. And I wanted to show the fans that I’m here and that I’m pretty strong in this division.”

The display was followed by interesting callouts of Donald Cerrone, Darren Till or, really, just any ranked fighters that could assist Okami on his way up to title contention. Given they were coming from a man who months ago was getting put out cold by Ovince Saint Preux in the first round, in his return after four years away from the octagon, they may sound somewhat overly ambitious.

But 36-year-old Okami has his reasons for aiming high.

“To approach this fight, I was thinking that I could figure out where I belonged,” Okami said. “And I realized I was able to dominate the opponent, so I think I can do very well in this division. But I’m not young. I don’t want to take loo long to get there, so I want to try to fight a ranked fighter and get up to that ladder very quick to the title shot.”

In fairness, there were extenuating factors around that UFC Fight Night 117 meeting with Saint Preux. Not only did Okami take it on extremely short-notice, after an injury forced Mauricio “Shogun” Rua to withdraw, but he also did it against a 205-pound opponent.

Considering he’d already been competing in the welterweight division for two years then, after a long stint in the 185-pound division that once saw him challenging for Anderson Silva’s UFC belt, taking the call may have seemed a little crazy.

Okami, though, has another term to describe the opportunity.

“In terms of that fight against OSP, I consider it as God’s gift,” Okami said. “It would give me a chance to get back into the UFC. However, I’m a welterweight, so I consider this fight to be the real comeback fight in the octagon.”

At welterweight, it’s a different ball game for Okami. Back when he competed at middleweight, Okami said, he actually had to gain weight. Making the 170-pound limit, he said he can train in the same way and not worry. And then there’s the obvious advantage: He feels stronger than most of his peers and, therefore, able to control them.

It’s still quite remarkable that, more than 15 years into his MMA career, Okami is not only able to perform at a high level – but to make changes like this type of weight drop. Still, here he is, fresh off a dominant win and keeping his sights on title contention.

“I actually thought I would never be fighting this old,” Okami said. “But I went through so many fights, I went through hardships, regret and also happiness. All these mixed feelings will give me motivation to keep on fighting and getting better.”

As for the lion’s den that he’s so eager to thrust himself into?

“(The welterweight division) is quite different from when I used to fight at 185 in the UFC,” Okami said. “Right now, there’s so many new fighters. And when you look at the top 15 of the rankings, there are so many young fighters out there. So I’m looking forward to fighting these young talents, to prove how strong I am.”

To hear from Okami, check out the video above.

And for complete coverage of UFC on FOX 29, check out the UFC Events section of the site

Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie

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