Viewers' guide to UFC 134
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.