Okami to fight Lombard at UFC in Japan

January 8, 2013, 1:39 PM

The UFC has announced that Japanese middleweight contender Yushin (Thunder) Okami will fight on his home soil as he has been added to the card scheduled for March 3 at the Saitama Super Arena (March 2 in North America). He will take on Hector Lombard in an important middleweight matchup.

The fight, which will be part of UFC on FUEL TV 8, will be Okami’s first time fighting in his home country since joining the UFC in 2006. He last fought in Japan earlier that year.

Okami and Lombard are both coming off dominant wins in December. The former No. 1 contender Okami (29-7-0) defeated title-shot hopeful Alan Belcher by decision at the year-end UFC 155, giving him his second straight win after a two-fight skid. Popular in Japan, Okami also holds the last win over currant middleweight champion Anderson Silva, whom he defeated by disqualification outside the UFC in 2006.

Lombard (32-3-1), the former Bellator 185-pound champion, got his first UFC win in his second appearance on Dec. 14 in his home country, knocking out Rousimar Palhares in the first round of their bout at UFC on FX in Gold Coast, Australia. The Cuba native, who is a former Olympic judoka and has a 4th degree black belt in judo but is mostly known for his vicious power striking, disappointed in his Octagon debut in July, losing a split decision to Tim Boetsch at UFC 149 in Calgary.

The winner of their bout, which will appear on the main card, could be in line for a title shot in the near future. That is especially true of Lombard, who displayed the form that was expected of him when he was given a big contract to join the UFC in 2012 with his stoppage in his last outing.

Also announced on the main card will be a featherweight bout between Japan’s Mizuto Hirota and Brazilian Rani Yahya. Hirota (14-5-1), who has never been knocked out in his career, is a veteran of the Sengoku and DEEP organizations in Asia. Prior to his North America debut in Strikeforce last July, he was 4-1 in his past five fights. Brazilian Yahya (17-7) has won all but two of his fights by way of submission and holds notable wins over Mark Hominick and Eddie Wineland.

The main event of the card is a five-round, light-heavyweight non-title matchup between former Pride middleweight champ Wanderlei Silva and decorated U.S. Marine Brian Stann. Brazilian fighter Silva, nicknamed “The Axe Murderer,” is known for his aggressive fighting style with the majority of his fights ending in knockout or referee stoppage due to strikes. He holds the records for the most wins, knockouts and title defenses, and longest winning streak in Pride history. This will be Silva’s first fight in Japan since 2006.

Stann, born at the Yokota Air Base in Tokyo, owns a Silver Star for combat in the Marine Corps. The veteran has already accomplished some impressive feats that include winning the WEC light-heavyweight title and defeating Chris Leben, Jorge Santiago and Alessio Sakara.

In the co-main event, contenders Stefan (Skyscraper) Struve and Mark Hunt face off in a hard-hitting UFC heavyweight bout. Making his long-awaited Japan debut, Struve, the tallest fighter in UFC history at seven foot, has won four in a row, with two Submission of the Night and one Fight of the Night awards. Hunt has long been one of the most popular fighters ever to compete in Japan because of his warrior spirit and knockout power. Hunt is on a three-fight winning streak and last fought at UFC 144 in Japan in February 2012, winning via knockout over Cheick Kongo.

The main card of UFC on FUEL TV 8 (which will air on Sportsnet) also features local hero and former Pride champion Takanori Gomi vs. Diego Sanchezat lightweight, and Korea’s Dong-Hyun Kim vs. knockout specialist Siyar Bahadurzada in a welterweight contest.

Other fights on the card include Japan’s Riki Fukuda facing off against Brad Tavares at middleweight, Japanese bantamweight Takeya Mizugaki vs. Bryan Caraway, and the UFC debut’s of two Koreans, welterweight Hyun Gyu Lim and bantamweight Kyung Ho Kang, taking on Marcelo Guimaraes and Alex (Bruce Leeroy) Caceres, respectively.

Also making his debut is Japan’s Kazuki Tokudome who will take on Cristiano Marcello in a lightweight matchup.

updated: Plus, Chico Camus will welcome undefeated top prospect Dustin Kimura to the world-famous Octagon in a bantamweight scrap
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