Sometimes a win feels like nothing more than a "win." You know, one of those W's on the resume that don't elicit a sense of accomplishment or excellence.
A loss, on the other hand, is always a loss.
That is the best way I can think to describe the first meeting of Anderson Silva and Yushin Okami, who will rematch in the main event of UFC 134 on Saturday night in Rio de Janeiro (9 p.m. ET, PPV).
This weekend's fight is for the Brazilian's middleweight championship. Their earlier meeting was back in 2006 in the first round of a 175-pound tournament during a Rumble on the Rock MMA event in Honolulu. Silva, a tourney favorite, was disqualified after landing a debilitating kick to Okami's face while the Japanese fighter's knees were on the mat, making the strike against the rules.
So, yes, Okami won on a technicality. And, yes, whenever it's mentioned that he's the last fighter to have his hand raised against Silva, it's said with a wink-wink inflection.
But let's be clear: Okami is no Matt Hamill. By that I mean his victory over Silva did not at all resemble Hamill's 2009 DQ win over the otherwise undefeated Jon Jones, in which "Bones" thoroughly battered Hamill and was in the process of finishing him when, in his thunderous fervor, he landed several so-called 12-6 elbows, which are not allowed in the UFC. Hamill's win that night was an unambiguous example of a "win."
Okami over Silva in '06? It's not so clear-cut whether it was a win or merely a "win."
Silva was getting the better of the early action that night in Hawaii, avoiding Okami's sloppy takedown attempts and peppering him with punches and kicks. But eventually the persistent Okami managed to put Silva on his back, and from full guard position he landed a few strikes on the ground. Then, in a flash, Silva brought his right leg up and nailed the kneeling Okami with a heel to the chin. It didn't look like an accident.
There was much confusion when, simultaneously, Okami fell backward and the referee jumped in at 2:33 of the first round. Was it a KO? Silva wasn't celebrating. Okami wasn't doing much of anything except looking dazed. He was helped from the cage, looking more like a "winner" than a winner.
But Okami need apologize to no one. He didn't look good at the start, but he did get a takedown and was in decent position when the fight was waved off. Who knows what would have happened if he had more time to work from top position?
When the two meet again this weekend, Okami will be a different fighter. He's been working with Chael Sonnen, who last fall pushed Silva to the limit, dominating the champ for more than four rounds before succumbing to a late-fifth-round triangle/armbar submission. Presumably, Yushin will be slicker and more effective on takedowns. And if he follows the Sonnen blueprint, he'll forever be moving forward, pressuring Silva instead of allowing "The Spider" the room to get his striking game going.
Of course, Silva has come a long way since 2006, too. We'll see Saturday whether he can add to his illustrious fighting history. His illustrious history, that is, with a notable blemish.
14: consecutive victories since the DQ loss against Okami.
11: finishes in his 13 UFC bouts.
5: bonuses won over his last four bouts (Knockout of the Night vs. Vitor Belfort, Fight and Submission of the Night vs. Sonnen, Fight and KO of the Night vs. Forrest Griffin). The other bout during that stretch was the infamous clown act against Demian Maia, which won Anderson only the ire of boss Dana White.
75: percent of his UFC bouts that have gone to decision (9 of 12).
1: submission win (other than subs to strikes) among his 26 career victories.
1: loss in which he was finished (TKO by Amar Suloev in 2003).
What we should expect: Fighting in his homeland, Silva is going to want to put on a show -- and not a comedy show, as he has in the past. To put his best foot forward, he'll want to stay on his feet. That means fending off takedowns, which he didn't do very well against Sonnen, Okami's training partner. Will he step up the leg attack, throwing a lot of kicks aimed at catching his opponent coming in? Or will he stick mainly to fisticuffs, to avoid giving up a leg for takedown? Something tells me he's going to do whatever it takes not simply to win, but to look spectacular.
Why we should care: When any champion steps into the Octagon, it's time to sit up and pay attention. When that champ is widely acknowledged as the top pound-for-pound fighter in mixed martial arts, that sitting up is done at the edge of the seat.
"It's very emotional to think about fighting back here in my home in Brazil. I've fought all over the world, and not only in the UFC. But I've found that all this hard work that I've done has led up to this moment."--Anderson Silva, speaking during last week's UFC 134 conference call with members of the MMA media
"Okami is a good fighter, but a fight is a fight. I win, maybe. Okami wins, maybe. But I promise I'll be ready for the fight."--Silva, during the conference call
"Yushin Okami is the best fighter to come out of Japan. He didn't build this mythological reputation beating cans, but he actually fought tough guys and he earned a fight against the pound-for-pound best fighter in the sport."--UFC president Dana White, during the conference call
"It's huge to have Sonnen around. And training with him, I've learned so many things from Chael's experience."--Okami, during the conference call
"Yushin's better than that guy. He's tougher than that guy. He's the last guy to beat Anderson Silva. Anderson Silva never tried to rectify that loss. Anderson Silva cheated that night to get out of the ring because he didn't like the way that fight was going. He did everything he could do to get away from Yushin Okami, and now he's stuck with him in his hometown and there's going to be a new champion."--Sonnen, giving his assessment of Silva vs. Okami during a Q&A session with UFC Fight Club members prior to this month's UFC 133 in Philadelphia
"You have to find the best people to train with, and I think [Okami] chose wrong. I'd never align myself with a loser, a loser in every sense. . . . [Sonnen] didn't win the fight [between us], got caught doping, is being sued for various things, and is suspended from the UFC. You want to be a champion? Get with good people, with winners."--Silva, speaking to the Brazilian newspaper O Globo back in May (quote via BloodyElbow.com)
Haunting memories: The last time we saw Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, at UFC 118 back in March, he walked into the Octagon as light heavyweight champion and walked out a few minutes later bruised and groggy after a beatdown by "Bones" Jones. But that's not the bad memory he'll be trying to overcome Saturday night. The truly lingering remembrance -- and the only one he can do anything about this weekend -- is of his upset loss to Forrest Griffin in 2007. Rua had just arrived in the UFC from Pride amid much anticipation and hoopla. And in his first bout with the promotion, in which he was a heavy favorite, he was dominated by Griffin. Will Saturday's fight be payback time or more of the same?
Big step up: Brendan Schaub has steadily progressed during his 8-1 MMA career, moving up the ladder from Chris Tuchscherer to Gabe Gonzaga to Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic in his last three bouts. Of course, CroCop is a shot fighter at this point, but Schaub's win was nonetheless impressive. Now he steps in against another veteran, a 35-year-old who might be fading a little but in his last bout challenged for the UFC heavyweight title. Is Schaub ready? He'd better be.
Foreign feeling: What is Yves Jabouin vs. Ian Loveland doing here? The Rio card has 12 bouts, 11 of them featuring at least one Brazilian fighter. The lone exception is the bout between Loveland, an Oregonian, and Jabouin, a Haitian fighting out of Montreal. What, did the UFC run out of Brazilian fighters?