Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight veteran Ovince Saint Preux will clash with returning former contender Yushin Okami TONIGHT (Sept. 22, 2017) at UFC Fight Night 117 inside Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.
At Light Heavyweight, most anyone can break into the title mix with several good wins given the current state of the division. The exception to that is “OSP,” whose recent performances have been consistently pedestrian in his previous few fights. A step back in competition resulted in a finish for Saint Preux last time around, and there’s a fair chance this one goes in similar fashion.
Credit to Okami for taking a short-notice bout two weight classes up in order to return to UFC, but that’s hardly a recipe for success. Okami is understandably a massive underdog ahead of tonight’s event, as he’ll be looking for his first 205-pound victory.
Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for each man:
Ovince Saint Preux
Key Wins: Mauricio Rua (UFC Fight Night 56), Patrick Cummins (UFC on FOX 15), Ryan Jimmo (UFC 174)
Key Losses: Jimi Manuwa (UFC 204), Volkan Oezdemir (UFC Fight Night 104), Glover Teixeira (UFC Fight Night 73), Ryan Bader (UFC Fight Night 47)
Keys to Victory: Saint Preux is among the most athletic men in his division and certainly one of the most odd technically as well. At range, he’s a mixed big of dangerous weapons thrown one at a time, and he’s a capable wrestler when he remembers to use that part of his game.
If I had a straight connection to Saint Preux’s brain ahead of this fight, my message would be pretty simple. It would go something like, “Dude, that guy is a less-than-durable Welterweight 15 years deep in his pro career. Go beat the shit out of him!”
It really should be that easy. “OSP” is far larger than Okami and holds a massive power advantage. Shucking off the single-leg and clinch attempts shouldn’t be that hard, and landing the follow up left hand will probably end the fight.
If Saint Preux attacks, he wins.
Record: 29-7 overall, 13-4 UFC
Key Wins: Paul Bradley (WSOF 34), Mark Munoz (UFC Live 2), Nate Marquardt (UFC 122), Alan Belcher (UFC 155)
Key Losses: Anderson Silva (UFC 134), Ronaldo Souza (UFC Fight Night 28), Chael Sonnen (UFC 104), Tim Boetsch (UFC 144)
Keys to Victory: Okami is a grinder. For years and years, he fought the best the Middleweight division had to offer, finding success with a stiff jab and smothering wrestling game. Even since his drop to Welterweight, Okami has fought some tough opposition.
The move up in a weight is a definite problem for Okami. Strength is very important in wrestling exchanges; it’s what allows takedowns to succeed rather than fail and dictates how much energy is expended in transition. Basically, that size advantage means that Okami may gas even if he can land an early takedown, just because Saint Preux will have to expend less effort to match Okami’s muscle.
Nevertheless, it’s his only potential path to victory. “Thunder” has to back his foe into the fence and drain him with constant takedowns. It’s been done to Saint Preux by bigger fighters in the past, and perhaps Okami can add his name to that list.
Bottom Line: I suppose the biggest story of this fight has already happened: Okami is back.
For “OSP,” this is just another step in reestablishing himself as a top Light Heavyweight. A win won’t fully bring him back into the mix, but it sets him up for a fellow Top 10-ranked fighter in his next fight. While three losses is rarely good, it’s forgivable enough since he was fighting top contenders. What’s more damning is that Saint Preux looked uninterested during the fights themselves, letting his opponent dictate large portions of the fight without reacting much.
If he does that here, Okami has a chance.
As for “Thunder,” there are no expectations resting on his shoulders. He’s the smaller man by a fair margin and accepted the fight on short-notice; he does his job of saving the main event just by showing up tonight. Even with a loss, that earns him some goodwill with both UFC and fans. Should Okami pull off the upset in his home country, it would make for a legendary moment that further proves you can never be too certain in MMA.
TONIGHT at UFC Fight Night 117, Ovince Saint Preux and Yushin Okami will square off in the main event. Which man will have his hand raised?