Yushin Okami returns to the Japan for the first time since his shocking KO loss to Tim Boetsch last February at UFC 144 to take on another heavy-handed striker, this time Hector Lombard. The bout is expected to serve as a top contender’s matchup, with the winner of this fight moving into the top five of the division and getting close to a title shot.
But regardless of Okami’s recent victory over Alan Belcher, this fight was made so Lombard can get a huge KO and so he can move one step closer to a fight with Anderson Silva. The truth is, although Okami is an amazing grappler, his chin is fading and Lombard is the hardest hitter in the division. One punch from Lombard on Okami’s chin and he’s going down, which is exactly what the UFC wants so they can groom a new and true contender for the middleweight crown.
Don’t kid yourselves here, folks — Okami is going to get knocked out in this one, and he’s going to suffer his second embarrassing defeat on home soil while Lombard moves another notch up the 185-pound ladder.
Bantamweights Dustin Kimura and Chico Camus collide at UFC 156, which takes place Super Bowl weekend. The fight was signed late so both guys aren’t going to get a full camp, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t expect each guy to come out firing on all cylinders in a pivotal fight in both fighters’ careers.
Kimura, the man with perhaps the best name in MMA, is a training partner of UFC featherweight Max Holloway and is one of the most highly-touted 135-pound prospects out there. Camus is a good wrestler who won his UFC debut at UFC 150 against Dustin Pague, but he’s beatable and if Kimura can take him out, he’ll likely be pushed up the bantamweight ladder quickly.
Kimura is going to be a marketable fighter with his catchy last name and the fact there aren’t many Hawaiian fighters currently signed to the UFC, but he needs to take out Camus in quick and dominant fashion first. Watch out for him because he’s a serious prospect. As for Camus, don’t count him out, either.
Welterweights Sean Pierson and Rick Story clash at UFC 158 in Montreal in what should be a fun little brawl between two guys at different points in their careers. Although in his late 30s, Pierson has put together a two-fight win steak, while Story has lost three of four. Both guys need a big win here to assure themselves of a future with the UFC, but only one man will remain victorious.
Although Pierson has the home-town edge and the momentum coming into this fight, don’t count Story out. He’s fought and defeated some of the very best in the world , including Johny Hendricks and Thiago Alves, so although Pierson is on a little roll expect Story to come out very hungry and to push the action. You can never count Pierson out of a fight, but this sure seems like a fight the UFC matched up so they can get Story back on a win streak. Who knows, though, maybe Pierson can play spoiler like he has so many times in the past.
Veterans Yves Jabouin and Johnny Eduardo clash in what should be a fun striking battle at UFC 158. The Haitian-born Jabouin, who trains at TriStar gym in Montreal, is coming off a KO loss to Brad Pickett and if he wants to contend for the 135-pound title in the future he needs to get back to his winning ways, but Edurado has been fighting pro since 1996 and won’t be an easy out.
I love this fight because both guys are such underappreciated veterans who have looked better as of late in the UFC (Jabouin’s loss to the top-ranked Pickett notwithstanding). The winner of this fight isn’t going to get a title match, but they’ll be on the bubble of the top 10, and you know what? That’s not that bad, considering where both these guys started out their careers (Jabouin in the Montreal-based TKO Championship Fighting, Eduardo on the Brazilian regional circuit). Expect both men to be very motivated to win, so we can look forward to a fun fight here.
What do you think of the Jabouin-Eduatdo matchup?
Adam Martin has blogged for theScore.com and is a regular contributor to Sportsnet.ca’s MMA section. Follow him on Twitter @MMAdamMartin.