When Tim Boetsch hurt Yushin Okami early in the third round of their middleweight match at UFC 144 in Tokyo, he got the sense that he was in the midst of a special comeback.
If he didn't realize it himself, though, he got plenty of help from UFC broadcaster Joe Rogan, who went berserk as Boetsch rallied from far behind to stop Okami in dramatic fashion in February.
"I heard Joe's reaction live, which is how I knew it was an incredible comeback," Boetsch said by telephone from Calgary, where he is preparing for an important fight against Hector Lombard Saturday at the Scotiabank Saddledome in the co-main event of UFC 149. "I heard Joe Rogan screaming. I looked over and saw him going nuts and I was going crazy. Joe Rogan and I had a nice little moment there together."
An overly enthused Rogan called it the greatest comeback he'd ever seen, though he later backed off that stance.
But Boetsch's win over Okami represented a major career comeback of sorts. He's now, to borrow one of UFC president Dana White's pet phrases, "in the mix" for a middleweight title shot.
He's been in the division for a little more than a year, beating Kendall Grove, Nick Ring and Okami to suddenly become a player after holding bit parts as a light heavyweight.
He was 2-3 as a 205-pounder in the UFC and had been cut once already. After a loss to Phil Davis at UFC 123 in 2010, he was looking at the possibility of being released a second time.
Whether or not he survived the ax was immaterial, however. There was no way as a 205-pounder that Boetsch was going to be championship material. Physically, he didn't match up well with the large, swift athletes who have been dominating that division.
Boetsch's forte is his strength and his tenacity, which he can put to far better use as a 185-pounder.
It was a calculated risk. Boetsch typically walked around between 227 and 230 pounds when he was fighting as a light heavyweight. That meant he'd have to slim down a staggering 45 pounds to make the middleweight limit.
But, Boetsch said, "it was a relatively quick decision" because of what it could mean for his career.
The likelihood would be strong that if he could make the weight and still be healthy, he'd be more powerful than most of the middleweights he'd face. One of the most enduring images of Boetsch in the Octagon was from his debut in 2008, when he literally threw David Heath onto his head.
That was pretty clear-cut evidence of his strength and power against a light heavyweight.