Whether you’re playing Summertime Sadness on repeat, or loving the departure of another wet blanket grinder from the UFC, the decision to release top-ten middleweight Yushin Okami is certainly the most controversial cut of it’s kind since Jon Fitch earlier this year. Unlike Fitch’s removal from the crowded 170 pound weight class, the repercussions at middleweight will be palpable without Okami.
Let’s be honest, middleweight hits it’s uncanny valley after rank 6 and that assessment is maybe too generous. Sure, Lyoto Machida may soon be displacing Mark Munoz, but with names like Francis Carmont and Costa Philippou entering top spots, the Okami cut becomes a heavy-handed decision that is unfortunately supported by unconvincing rhetoric.
I can’t subscribe to the notion that Okami needed to leave in order to open up space for a new title challenger. It’s more accurate to say that a still viable title threat in Okami was removed from the division and replaced by no one. For a moment, the UFC even allowed us some semiotic fun by including only nine individuals at middleweight in their own top-ten rankings. There aren’t ten real 185 pound contenders, so why bother bumping another name onto the list?
That, of course, was just a glitch in the matrix, a small change to reflect that Yushin is no longer an employee and therefor has no reason to appear on their website. Tim “The Barbarian” Boetsch was eventually moved into that ten spot fixing the technical issue, but not doing much more to convince viewers that middleweight isn’t a thin division.
Okami critics may be glad another supposedly boring fighter is gone but it’s so easy to list off many others that have fared worse in recent memory. The soon to be middleweight in Lyoto Machida, bored viewers against Dan Henderson in a fight that was meant to be a barn burner. Judges then robbed him in his most recent lackluster performance against Phil Davis.
Other hopefuls like Tim Boetsch and Hector Lombard were both riding hype trains in 2012, but they didn’t do themselves any favors when they met at UFC 149. Now, they’re in dangerous territory looking to avoid the same fate as Okami. Then there’s the fact that half of the cast from The Ultimate Fighter 18 is now in the UFC’s middleweight division led by it’s breakout star, Uriah Hall, who has disappointed in two straight losses. John Howard, the second man to derail Hall at UFC Fight Night 26, was even given the Okami treatment at the post-fight presser as he wasn’t asked a single question by members of the media.
The conundrum at 185 becomes more apparent as a certain “Limitless” fighter who faces the exact same fan criticisms as being boring, has even benefited from the departure and essentially taken Okami’s spot in the official UFC rankings. That’s right, Francis Carmont is now the 7th best middleweight in the world. The same guy that was immediately ridiculed by fans and Dana White alike after the biggest win of his career upsetting fellow top-ten middleweight Costa Philippou.
It doesn’t help that Carmont has a history of disappointing performances as two of his last six wins were of the Leonard Garcia variety. MMA analysts were almost unanimous in choosing Tom Lawlor and Lorenz Larkin over Carmont even if the judges those nights felt otherwise. Yet, here we are, Francis Carmont is a contender and Yushin Okami is relegated to the regional leagues.
Overall, what a weird precedent being set by the UFC, with this the kind of sweeping gesture, eliminating a fighter that clearly deserves to be there. I guess cutting the top-ten worthy is the new viral thing to do. Maybe if Machida and Munoz perform well at UFC Fight Night 30 it’ll give us something more positive to talk about at 185. Otherwise, we’ll have to wait for Weidman – Silva 2 at the end of the year.