This week the UFC cut Yushin Okami and where it’s been greeted with applause by many fans, it’s also been met with some hard questions from others.
“Thunder” was not the most exciting fighter to grace the UFC’s Octagon, but he was nonetheless, a successful one.
Okami had a 13 & 5 record, going 3 & 1 in his last four and was a ranked middleweight fighter. By normal standards, one would think that those numbers would be more than good enough to keep not only Okami in the UFC, but also any fighter with a like set.
However, that proved not to be the case and that indeed, there was a more important number that Okami should have tended to and that was the one of finishes. For his 13 wins, Yushin only managed to glean five stoppages and for a woeful 38 % finishing rate; not an amazing yield, to say the least.
In considering his success ratio in the Octagon, which is 72% and in juxtaposition to his finishing rate of 38%, a conundrum is revealed and an argument stirred.
Is winning enough?
On one side of the fence, many fans would like to see Okami and all fighters like him gone, because they bore the daylights out of them, with their fighting style(s).
On the other side of the fence, stand the fans who believe cutting winning fighters of Okami’s caliber diminishes the brand and erodes its credibility. That regardless of whether or not a fighter is exciting, if they can beat their other opponent then they are the better fighter; period, and it seems like a reasonable deduction.
However in retort, decriers of fighters like Okami or fellow UFC cast-off Jon Fitch would stipulate to their belief, that simply taking a fighter down and controlling him isn’t fighting, and that more importantly, it’s boring to watch. On this issue, Dana White appears to agree.
To consider both cases and minus any bias, is to appreciate both sides of the story as being equally true.
Yes, Okami and Fitch were or certainly could be boring fighters to watch, but nonetheless, they were winning fighters and at the end-of-the-day, isn’t the sport supposed to be about establishing who the best fighters are?
That said, would any of us be watching or would the sport even exist, if every fight was like Fitch / Penn? One would have to figure that most MMA fans would answer no to that question.
However, the argument still remains from the other side, that fighters who can’t prevent takedowns and being controlled on the ground, should learn to do so, and that fighters like Okami and Fitch, stood as solid tests and roadblocks, to any fighters that are weak in the areas that they excel in. In a nutshell, that wrestling heavy opponents, such as Okami and Fitch, force stand-up fighters to be well rounded and helps weed out those that are unsound.
Of course, another way of considering the problem is that by cutting fighters like Okami and Fitch, the UFC, and Bellator to a lesser extent, will force quality fighters like Okami and Fitch to up their games, beyond what they are, now.
However and as all things, there are exceptions to the rules, and the exception to this rule and indeed the elephant in the room, would be UFC welterweight champion Georges. St. Pierre.
“Rush” has an overall finish rate of just 42% (8 stoppages in 19 wins) and since claiming the belt from Matt Serra back in 2008, he’s only managed a 22% rate; 12.5% if we just consider his championship title defenses (1 for 8).
GSP is the first name that comes to mind for most critics, when they start talking about boring decision fighters, who employ far too much ground control in their games. Yet, the champion has been amazingly successful in the UFC and is the promotion’s biggest revenue generator and draw. Concordantly, Rush also has an enormous fan base that accompanies his success. All this, despite the decisions. As such, Rush flies in the face of a basic numbers crunch on finishing rates.
The problem with simply looking at the numbers regarding a fighter like GSP is that they don’t always tell the whole story. Even with his six straight decision victories, Rush is still turning in exciting performances and rarely disappoints his fans, with his full on pace and domination of his opponents.
Benson Henderson and Frankie Edgar would be two more fighters who suffer from low finishing percentages, yet still manage to deliver exciting bouts. At zero percent for Henderson and only 30% for Edgar, no one could argue that their numbers would warrant keeping them in the UFC, not if the promotion is cutting guys like Okami and Fitch, at 38 and 30 percent respectively. Yet, they are stalwart fixtures within the UFC, because the're exciting.
In synopsis, it seems that the operative word in all of these considerations is not wins or losses, but excitement and it begs the question, if a fighter were to consistently put on amazing performances, but never win, would the UFC cut him / her? It would be an interesting question to put to Dana White.
Either way though, it seems as if the days of decision heavy fighters who fail to put on exciting performances in their wins, are coming to an end.