Man, this does not portend good things for Yushin Okami at UFC 122 tonight. Where most odds makers and journalists see Okami’s alleged No. 1 contender battle with Nate Marquardt shaping up as a fairly close fight, the professional fighters surveyed as part of Sherdog’s super-scientific recurring “Pros Pick” piece appear to think Nate the Great has this in the bag. Of the 48 fighters contacted 40 see Marquardt getting the win, with just four pulling the lever for Okami and four undecided. That’s 83.3 percent for Marquardt, which for the record makes this survey only slightly less lopsided than the one conducted for Randy Couture vs. James Toney at UFC 118, when just three of 54 polled fighters tabbed Toney (92.5 percent for Couture).
The numbers become even more lopsided once you consider that one of the guys picking Okami is Team Quest training partner Matt Lindland, and even he is hedging his bet – in classic Lindland style — by pre-supposing a conspiracy against Okami on the part of the ringside officials.
“This is going to be a long, painful evening for Mr. Marquardt,” says Lindland who, let’s face it, is all but contractually obligated to side with the Thunderous one. “I pick Okami to win this fight by decision; it might even be another split decision, like the last fight he dominated, if the judges try and swindle another decision. Yushin is bigger, stronger and faster. Yes, Nathan is great, he hits hard and knocks guys out, but it’s hard to knock guys out when you are laying on your back with a big, strong Takeshi dropping elbows on your head.”
Aside from Lindland, the only dudes who like Okami’s chances are fellow middleweight contender Michael Bisping and two guys I’ve only vaguely heard of before — Keith Barry and Adam Singer.
“Based on the way Chael Sonnen controlled Marquardt in their bout, I think Okami has a chance to use a similar strategy and take the win,” says Bisping. “I think Okami will take him down, hold him there, beat him up a little and basically do more damage. I think Nate is much better off making this a striking match, mixing in his kicks and punches and avoiding the ground altogether if he can. Okami may have been a little unlucky not to have gotten a title shot yet, but now his destiny is in his own hands, and I think we’ll see the best of him at UFC 122.”
The rest – with Anderson Silva, Bobby Southworth, Mike Ciesnolevicz and Chris Leben all choosing to abstain – like the looks of Marquardt. While Leben says he’s really looking forward to this fight (if the screws at the Honolulu Correctional Facility will turn the channel away from “Swift Justice” with Nancy Grace) Mike C actually says he’d rather be trapped in a room with the cast of “Jersey Shore” than watch this fight. Strong words, Mike C., strong words.
So, do these professional fighters know something we don’t? Obviously, yeah, they know tons of shit we don’t. Then again, we know shit they don’t know too, like how to at least occasionally correctly use a semicolon and how to tell if a novel is a picaresque … so, uh, we’re going to go ahead and call it even.