World Series of Fighting matchmaker Ali Abdel Aziz yesterday confirmed on Twitter that his promotion has signed former UFC middleweight standout Yushin Okami to a new contract, ending weeks of speculation as to where the Japanese fighter might end up. The UFC cut Okami last month, saying he had turned into a “gatekeeper” in the middleweight division, despite the fact he actually holds the most all-time wins as a 185 pounder in the Octagon with 13 victories. Most observers of the sport felt that Okami was cut unfairly by the UFC, and so it’s not surprising that a solid promotion like WSOF would snatch him up almost immediately. I think this is a great signing for WSOF and I expect Okami to eventually win their middleweight crown. Right now, WSOF has a four-man middleweight tournament that will decide who gets to become the inaugural 185-pound champ of their organization: David Branch already moved on to the finals opposite Danillo Villefort, while Elvis Mutapcic and Jesse Taylor will fight at WSOF 7 to determine who else gets a place in the final two. It’s possible now that, with Okami in the mix, WSOF holds off on crowning a champion until he fights, but even if someone from the middleweight tourney gets the title first look for “Thunder” to be the de facto No. 1 contender. Weekend Fight Announcement Roundup The UFC also booked a few new matchups this weekend, and here are my initial thoughts on what the opening lines for them will be.
- Jake Ellenberger vs. Tarec Saffiedine, UFC Singapore –> Although I don’t believe Ellenberger is deserving of a main-event slot following the stinker of a performance he put on against Rory MacDonald at UFC on FOX 8, the UFC has decided to give him a headlining spot against former Strikeforce welterweight champion Tarec Saffiedine at UFC Singapore, which takes place Jan. 4, 2014. This is a solid matchup on paper and it makes sense as far as the rankings go, but after seeing MacDonald use his technique to neutralize Ellenberger I see Saffiedine being able to replicate a similar gameplan to get a win here. Still, my initial thoughts are Ellenberger should open as a slight favorite here, perhaps -130 to -110 for Saffiedine, who hasn’t fought in almost a year.
- Nicholas Musoke vs. Alessio Sakara –> After Magnus Cedenblad pulled out of UFC Fight Night 30 with an injury, the UFC called upon newcomer Nicholas Musoke to take on Alessio Sakara at the event. I don’t know much about Musoke, but I do know that Sakara is a major fade at this point of his career and he better have worked hard in training camp or else this youngster Musoke — who trains with Alexander Gustafsson in Sweden — could come into the Octagon and pull off the upset. Still, look for Sakara to open at -200 or higher in this spot against a fighter with no UFC experience.