Japanese fans are in for a treat, as the UFC has announced Yoshihiro Akiyama will make his long-awaited welterweight debut as part of the organization’s February 26 stop in Saitama Japan for UFC 144. Better yet, continuing the trend of apt adversaries for Akiyama, the 13-4 Judoka will face former Strikeforce champion Jake Shields for what should be a co-headliner alongside Frankie Edgar’s title-defense against Ben Henderson.
Only 5’10”, Akiyama made the decision to drop to 170 pounds after falling in three straight fights including a brutal knockout loss to Vitor Belfort in August. He holds past wins in his career over Melvin Manhoef, Denis Kang, and Alan Belcher, as well as a number of exciting performances to his credit including a “Fight of the Year” candidate against Chris Leben at UFC 116.
Shields is also coming off a strike-based stoppage after Jake Ellenberger finished him off less than a minute into their headlining bout at UFC Battle on the Bayou. Prior to the defeat he had gone the distance against Georges St. Pierre, becoming the first fighter to win a round from the Canadian champ in years, and entered the title-fight coming off victories over Martin Kampmann, Jason Miller, and Dan Henderson.
PHOTO CREDIT – UFC