Okami jabbed, clinched and grappled his way to a unanimous decision against former middleweight King of Pancrase Nate Marquardt in the UFC 122 "Marquardt vs. Okami" headliner on Saturday at the Konig Pilsener Arena in Oberhausen, Germany. Scores were 29-28, 30-27 and 29-28 for Okami, who won for the 10th time in 12 UFC appearances and solidified himself as a title contender at 185 pounds.
Afterward, he turned an eye toward Silva, a man he defeated by disqualification under the Rumble on the Rock banner in January 2006.
"Nate is a great fighter," Okami said. "I felt I deserved it, and I'm ready to fight for the championship. I want to fight Anderson for [the] championship, and I want to become the middleweight champion."
Getting past Marquardt was no easy task. Okami avoided three submission attempts -- two guillotine chokes and a heel hook -- in the first round, reversed into top position from butterfly guard and scored with a takedown as the grueling round came to a close. Marquardt answered with a strong push in Round 2, as he secured a takedown of his own, countered an Okami flying knee with a counter left hand and held his own inside the clinch.
Okami drew blood on Marquardt's cheek with repeated jabs in the third round, backed him into the cage with a stout combination and took the steam out of the Grudge Training Center rep's punches. Marquardt delivered another takedown with 90 seconds left but failed to capitalize, as Okami freed himself and returned to an upright position without absorbing punishment.
"I didn't take any damage, so I didn't think much of [the takedown]," said Okami, who trained with 2000 Olympic silver medalist Matt Lindland and world-ranked middleweight Chael Sonnen at Team Quest in advance of UFC 122. "I'm glad I won the fight."
Siver chokes out Winner in first round
Russian-born German Dennis Siver submitted "The Ultimate Fighter" Season 9 finalist Andre Winner with a first-round rear-naked choke in their featured lightweight attraction. Winner, who had not been submitted in more than three years, met his demise 3 minutes, 37 seconds into Round 1.
"It was my duty to win here," Siver said through his translator. "It was the most important thing in my life."
Winner got the better of the initial exchanges between the two lightweights, as he landed a crisp left hook to the head and stuffed an attempted takedown. Siver stuck to his guns, however, dodged a three-punch combination from Winner and dropped the Team Rough House rep with a left hand. Winner never recovered. Hammerfists on the ground further softened the Brit, as Siver transitioned to his back, cinched the choke and secured the tapout.
"I've been training a lot of jiu-jitsu lately," said Siver, a winner in six of his past seven appearances, "and I wanted to try it out in the ring, whether it works or not."
Sadollah's strikes too much for Sobotta
"The Ultimate Fighter" Season 7 winner Amir Sadollah leaned on volume and variety as he outstruck Peter Sobotta en route to a unanimous decision in a featured welterweight duel. All three judges scored it 30-27 for Sadollah, who moved to 4-2 inside the Octagon.
Sobotta was outgunned from the start, and his inability to move Sadollah out of his comfort zone proved his undoing. A 30-year-old Brooklyn, N.Y., native, Sadollah set the tone early as he tore into the Polish-born German from the clinch, utilizing inside knees and a short left elbow over the top. Combinations followed, and Sadollah made his opponent pay for clinging to a high single-leg late in the round.
Sadollah kept piling up the points in Rounds 2 and 3, as he used everything in his tool bag: leg kicks, straight rights and strikes to the head and body. By the time the welterweights reached the final period, his steady stream of leg kicks had taken a visible toll on Sobotta, who remains winless in three UFC appearances.
"I kind of expected [him to hang in there]," Sadollah said. "He's on his way up. I don't have anything pithy to say. I'm just happy and want to say thank you to a few people."
Soszynski decisions Reljic at 205
A one-sided third round carried Team Quest's Krzysztof Soszynski to a unanimous decision over struggling Croatian import Goran Reljic in their light heavyweight showdown. All three judges scored it 30-27 for Soszynski, as he handed Reljic his third consecutive defeat.
The first two rounds saw little offense of note from either man, outside of a pair of takedowns from Reljic and an attempted second-round kimura from Soszynski. However, Round 3 was all Soszynski. "The Ultimate Fighter" Season 8 semifinalist thwarted a takedown from the tiring Croat, cinched a waist lock and pounded on him with punches. Reljic ultimately rolled away from danger and returned to his feet, only to be threatened by a standing kimura from Soszynski. Reljic freed himself, but Soszynski moved to the Thai clinch, forced him to pull guard and punctuated his second victory in three fights with strikes on the ground.
"That boy is tough," said Soszynski, who improved to 5-2 inside the Octagon. "He's one tough S.O.B. You never know what the judges are going to score. I thought I had him standing, but he took me down. I think I sealed it what that third round."
Ludwig nips Osipczak, earns split nod
Former Ring of Fire welterweight champion Duane Ludwig earned a contentious split decision from "The Ultimate Fighter" Season 9 semifinalist Nick Osipczak in a featured matchup at 170 pounds. Two of the three cage-side judges scored it 29-28 for Ludwig; a third cast a dissenting 30-28 ruling for Osipczak.
Though clearly outgunned in terms of pure striking skill, Osipczak wobbled Ludwig with a combination in the first round, pounced on the American and opened a cut on Ludwig's right brow, blood streaming laterally away from the eye. Ludwig, a Grudge Training Center rep who has engaged in more than one firefight in his decade-long career, survived the salvo and entered Round 2 with new life.
After a nip-and-tuck second round, Ludwig came on strong. He stringed together crisp combinations on his visibly weary foe, battering the Team Rough House standout from the clinch with knees to the body and short punches and elbows to the head. Later in the round, Ludwig turned to head kicks and racked up the points with a relentless, high-volume attack.
"I've been watching a lot of 'The Simpsons.' Homer always takes a beating to wear the guy out. That's what I was trying to do," said Ludwig, who had not competed since he suffered a gruesome leg injury in March. "I was a little upset. I've been out a while, and I just wanted to bring some pain to somebody else. If anybody deserves this win, it's me. I've been through a lot."
Brian Knapp is a contributor to Sherdog.com.