Japanese fighter Yushin “Thunder” Okami attempts to do what many fighters have done before him in changing weight classes – in his case he’s dropping from middleweight to welterweight.
World Series of Fighting announced that Okami will fight at 170 pounds for the first time in nine years when he takes on fellow veteran Jon Fitch at WSOF 24, Oct. 17 at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Conn. The event will be broadcast on live on NBCSN.
Okami has spent most of his career fighting at 185. In the last nine years he’s fought in several promotions – including a seven-year stint in the UFC that garnered him some success. Training with Team Quest and Chael Sonnen, Okami evolved into the fighter that he is today. He defeated former world champions Evan Tanner, Nate Marquardt and Hector Lombard. He unsuccessfully challenged Anderson Silva for the UFC middleweight title in 2011.
The Japanese fighter was released from the UFC after his loss to former Strikeforce middleweight champion Ronaldo Souza. Shortly after UFC gave him the boot, he signed with WSOF and defeated Svetlozar Savov in his promotional debut. Okami unsuccessfully challenged David Branch for the WSOF middleweight title in November. The Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt finished him in the fourth round via TKO, which led to his decision to drop to 170.
Thunder’s previous stint at 170 pounds lasted two fights when he competed in the Rumble on the Rock welterweight tournament in 2006. He advanced to the second round after Silva got disqualified for hitting him with an illegal upkick. He was eliminated from the tournament after dropping a majority decision to Jake Shields.
Okami has a good opponent for his return to 170. Fitch is looking to get back on the winning track after Rousimar Palhares submitted him with a kneebar in their welterweight title fight. He also failed the post fight drug test.
This could be an exciting fight or a boring one. Both fighters have a plethora of experience, proficient mat skills and good striking. Some may argue that this fight should have happened a few years ago but MMA promotions seem to be putting on those kind of fights lately. Both Okami and Fitch are known to fans and their names still carry some value – enough to be have the heavyweight title bout between champion Blagoy Ivanov and challenger Derek Mehmen.
Cynicism aside, a win over Fitch could be the first in a long and successful run for Okami at 170.