In my view, Yushin Okami’s UFC career can be separated into three tiers. The first tier consists of truly elite/world-class opponents. The second tier consists of very good opponents. The third consists of mediocre/lower-level opponents.
When Okami takes on opponents from the first tier, he loses, and has a possibility of losing badly. Anderson Silva is obviously an example of an opponent from this tier, but Okami has also lost to Chael Sonnen and Rich Franklin. Keep in mind the Franklin loss was from 2007, when Franklin could still be regarded as one of the very best middleweight fighters in the world.
When Okami faces opponents from the second tier, he wins, but he doesn’t dominate. Against Nate Marquardt, Okami won, but only with a 25-21 advantage in significant strikes. Against Mark Munoz, Okami’s advantage was 22-16 (although Okami landed many insignificant strikes in that fight). Against Mike Swick, it was 28-28, but Okami landed four takedowns to Swick’s zero.
And when Okami faces third-tier opponents, then he tends to win in convincing and sometimes dominating fashion. This is what happened against Lucio Linhares, Dean Lister, and Jason MacDonald.
With all of that said, if I’m going to get behind the idea of Tim Boetsch winning this fight, I’ll have to make an argument for him being a first-tier middleweight fighter, on the level of Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen. Frankly, I do not envy anybody trying to make that argument.
Now, Boetsch has some strengths as a fighter that may serve him well in this fight. One of those is his wrestling ability. Boetsch is a very big middleweight with a lot of power, particularly in the way he takes down his opponents. He’s not a particularly great striker; a lot of his striking success takes place with his ground and pound game. But if Boetsch is able to use his strength to overwhelm Okami and get him to the ground, his chances of winning this fight go up dramatically.
Easier said than done. Okami has an excellent takedown defense of 83 percent. Meanwhile, for all of Boetsch’s strength, sometimes it’s he who gets out-wrestled. This happened against Phil Davis (no shame there), but it also happened against Jason Brilz and Matt Hamill.
SILVA PREDICTION: YUSHIN OKAMI (64.88) OVER TIM BOETSCH (56.73)
I think Tim Boetsch ultimately lands in the second tier of Yushin Okami opponents as described above. He’s not as good as Nate Marquardt or Mark Munoz, but he clearly belongs in the UFC. Unfortunately, history shows that Boetsch’s level of fighting isn’t good enough to beat Okami. Boetsch might land one or two takedowns, but with Okami’s excellent defenses, it’s hard for me to see Boetsch producing enough offense to win a decision against him. In the end, Okami is the better striker, and the better overall fighter, and should be favored to win this fight.