Yushin “Thunder” Okami is no longer.
It has been announced today, that the seven year veteran has been released by the UFC and is free to go his way.
Okami stood a 13 & 5 record, with only five of his victories coming by way of stoppage (39%); 3 TKO’s, 1 KO & 1 submission. Although not overwhelming in fan pleasing stoppages, Okami was nonetheless a successful fighter and was indeed 3 & 1 over his last four fights.
However, in his last outing Thunder was completely outclassed and mauled by Jacare Souza, who laid out his opponent by way of TKO in the first round and as such, Okami looked more like a permanent gatekeeper at 185 then a title contender.
With this announcement and as confirmed by MMAjunkie.com, it appears that the UFC has determined that Okami’s lack luster performance style and suspect chin, were no longer a good match for the promotion’s rosters.
As an ancillary note, we might also consider Okami’s lack of popularity or fan base. Thunder has been in the UFC for seven years and in that time, one would be hard pressed to say that he’d built a significant North American fan base. Of course, a great deal of that might have to do with the (Japanese) language barrier. However, as other foreign fighters have been able to overcome that hindrance via their Ocatagon performances, Okami stands little defense regarding his lack of accomplishment in this area.
With Okami being ranked number six in the middleweight division, this marks the second time in a year (Jon Fitch in February) that the UFC has cut a ranked fighter. As such, this once again confirms to us that performances and not just wins matter to the senior promotion, and that win or lose, they want exciting fights from their fighters.
My guess will be that Okami is too high a prize to pass-by and that he’ll end up being signed by Bellator MMA, thus continuing the ongoing trend of x-UFC fighters leaching onto the junior promotion’s rosters.
Finally, it will be interesting to see fan reaction to the cut, particularly given that the promotion is jettisoning a ranked fighter with a 3 & 1 record over his last four, but keeping a fighter like Tim Boetsch, who, coincidently, was just removed from the 185 pound’s top ten list in favor of Francis Carmont. If Boetsch somehow climbs back on in replacement of Okami, it will be truly ironic.
Good luck to Thunder no matter where he goes or what he does. He might not have been the most exciting fighter to grace the Octagon, but nonetheless, he's a solid fighter and earned his ranking; he exits with that intact. As rankings do matter, Okami is still number six in the world to anyone who really knows.