UFC Fight Night 28 September 4, 2013 Middleweights: Yushin Okami vs. Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza By Reed Kuhn, @Fightnomics Big Picture: In the co-main event on Wednesday night it’s a battle between a former title contender, and a possible future title contender when Yushin Okami (#3) takes on home-cage favorite Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (#5). Despite the rankings, the betting line favors Souza at -260, with the underdog Okami at +220. The over of 2.5 rounds is -185, and the under is +155 for this three-round fight. Let’s take a look at the stats and see how these two match up. Summary Stats:
Tale of Tape Matchup: The fighters are similarly sized, with Souza having a slight reach advantage despite being the shorter fighter. Okami is a Southpaw, which generally carries a small edge if their opponents haven’t properly trained to face that stance. Both fighters have high profile experience and are over 30, but not yet quite in the decreased knockout resiliency range. Striking Matchup: Some have assumed that this is a striker-grappler matchup, and I don’t think that’s the case. Okami has definitely out-pointed some high level opponents (Marquardt, Belcher, Lombard, Munoz) with the help of his counter striking. When Okami is allowed to roam and point-fight, he has succeed in stealing rounds. But when opponents were aggressive, they broke through and did damage up close. Okami is now starting to accumulate knockdowns received. Jacare has proven his striking skills are an effective compliment to his renowned ground game. In his last fight he faced a larger Southpaw in Chris Camozzi, but made quick work getting to the mat and finishing the fight. The key here is cage control. Jacare needs to press the action and not get caught in the limbo of moving forward but still allowing Okami to retreat. If Souza closes the distance the constant threat of takedown also means that he can use his hands to punish Okami if he focuses too much on defending the takedown. That’s how Souza’s game has evolving from pure grappler to everywhere-threat. His striking is now more dangerous because of his ground game. Grappling Matchup: Souza’s grappling is elite, and more dangerous than that of Okami. But we can’t just call this a layup on the ground because Okami’s grappling has survived other dangerous grapplers before. I think the difference here though is Jacare’s well-honed submissions compared to the more wrestling focused grapplers that Okami has defeated. Yet Okami has yet to be submitted, and if this fight plays out like his prior ones, the two fighters may be scrapping all over the Octagon and exhausted before they get close for long. Still, Okami’s takedown defense metric is good, but not perfect. Jacare is the more dangerous fighter and presumably he’s studied his opponent enough to have a strategy to let him work his submission game, or at least establish a position where Okami is stuck eating strikes. Reed’s Pick: Jacare by Submission Reed’s Recommended Play: The line is well in Jacare’s favor, but a straight up play at -260 is reasonable. Souza definitely has the sharper offensive weapons, and he also has plenty of grueling five-round experience. With the home crowd verbalizing every landed strike and takedown for him, Souza may also benefit from the Brazil Effect if this fight goes the distance – which is where Okami has the best (if not only) chance. The current ITD for Souza is +165 and plus money isn’t bad for a dangerous guy like Jacare who gets a finish more often than not. The risk here is Okami’s stout defense. If he can weather the early storm and force a grinder, the likelihood of a submission finish with drop as the rounds tick by. Okami has historically been very good at grinding out decisions. So while playing the inside the distance game brings an attractive payout, the risk is commensurate. If you go that route, hedge with a straight up play. Okami by decision is a decent +280, and if he wins that is the likely method. And while Okami is unlikely to finish Jacare and his point fighting could force a longer fight, the prop on Not Okami Inside the Distance is currently -2137. That’s just way too much juice to lay on middleweights in the UFC. Strange things can and do happen, and a fluke injury to Souza during his aggressive pursuit of Okami would be expensive for that bet.