UFC.com announced this afternoon that Yoshihiro Akiyama has signed on with the UFC. There’s no word on who his first opponent will be, but he’s expected to step into the Octagon for the first time this summer.
This is a big move for the UFC because it not only bolsters their middleweight roster, but also helps Dana White’s eventual plan to take his business to Japan. Akiyama is the kind of fighter many Japanese fans (and Shinya Aoki) love to hate, partly because he is ethnically Korean and has been involved in one or two greasing scandals of his own. As the UFC gets more top Japanese fighters on its roster, especially ones the Japanese fans will pay to see in spite of themselves, it’s going to make things much easier when the UFC finally manages to schedule an event over there.
As Dana White is quoted as saying in the UFC.com story:
Following losses to Chris Leben and Michael Bisping, Yoshihiro Akiyama‘s back is squarely against the wall coming into his co-headlining bout at UFC 133. Unfortunately, his opponent will be Vitor Belfort, who can end a fight at any time with his notoriously lethal hands. But don’t sleep on Sexy. Akiyama predicts a knockout victory on August 6th, saying that he’s just as dangerous as Belfort in a stand-and-bang situation. “Every time I fight, I fight like my life’s at stake,” he says. And yeah, against the Phenom it very well might be. But we’ll have to find out Akiyama’s stance on Internet porn before we can make an official prediction.
(By the way, is it really necessary to start this clip with that stereotypical Asian flute playing in the background? Come on, son. Akiyama is of Korean descent, so you know the only music playing at his crib is Bubble Pop on a continuous loop.)
After the jump: A look at Vitor Belfort’s dramatic early rise in the UFC as well as his return (which conveniently doesn’t include that part where he got Seagal’d by Anderson Silva).
Alves’s loss to Martin Kampmann last month dropped his record over the last three years to a disappointing 2-4, with his only wins coming against Papy Abedi and John Howard, so he needs this win almost as much as his opponent does. If Akiyama loses, he’ll become just the second fighter in UFC history (after Steve Cantwell) to suffer five consecutive losses within the promotion. Anybody think he has a chance of breaking his streak?
Check out the current lineup of UFC 149 after the jump…
This Saturday in London, UFC middleweight Michael Bisping will get home-court advantage in his headlining fight against Yoshihiro Akiyama. Bisping is coming off a decision win against Dan Miller at UFC 114, while Akiyama will try to rebound from his submission loss to Chris Leben. Of course, you can’t always predict a fight’s outcome just by looking at recent performances. So let’s go to the stats and see if we can figure this sum’bitch out…
UFC RECORD Bisping: 9-3 Akiyama: 1-1 Advantage: Bisping
PERFORMANCE AGAINST COMMON OPPONENTS Bisping: Defeated Denis Kang via TKO R2, defeated Chris Leben via unanimous decision Akiyama: Defeated Denis Kang via KO R1, lost to Chris Leben by submission (triangle choke) R3 Advantage: Bisping
CAN HE SELL OUT AN ARENA WITH A MUSIC CONCERT? Bisping: No Akiyama: Yes Advantage: Akiyama
Call me crazy, but I’m more excited for the Akiyama-Silva fight than I am the main event on the July 3 UFC 116 card. The chances that someone’s getting knocked out quickly make the Lesnar-Carwin bout somewhat less appealing to me.
I don’t think I’ve ever not been pumped to see Wanderlei fight and Akiyama always puts on a good scrap. Neither fighter has a clear-cut advantage over the other and there likely won’t be any feeling out process as it isn’t either fighter’s style to be cautious, so this bout could very well have Fight of the Night honors in the bag.
UFC 120 (October 16th, London) is one of those international events that will be shown for free on Spike, so we didn’t really expect a massive headliner, but still, this is a bit of a slap in the nuts. Fighters Only reports that the card’s main event will be a middleweight contest between soap-opera starMichael Bisping and Yoshihiro Akiyama. Yes, that Yoshihiro Akiyama, the one who was submitted by Chris Leben last weekend. Akiyama deserves a headlining spot about as much as Mark Hunt deserves a UFC contract after going winless for four years.* Of course, the prospect of Bisping beating up a foreign fancy-boy will probably be enough to get the locals to come out. We’re just glad we don’t have to pay for this one. The rumored UFC 120 lineup currently looks like this…
Michael Bisping vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama Dan Hardy vs. Carlos Condit Cheick Kongo vs. Travis Browne John Hathaway vs. Dong Hyun Kim Spencer Fisher vs. Kurt Warburton Rob Broughton vs. Vinicius Quieroz Alexander Gustafsson vs. Cyrille Diabaté James Te-Huna vs. Tom Blackledge
The UFC’s most epic event of the year isn’t really the time or place to trot out unfamiliar faces from regional leagues. And so we have another lonely edition of The New Guys, with only one fighter on the UFC 100 lineup who’s never competed in the UFC before. The good news is, he’s one of Japan’s biggest MMA superstars, and could make a serious dent in the UFC’s rising middleweight division. So without further ado…
YOSHIHIRO AKIYAMA (MW) ?Experience: 12-1 record with 2 no-contests (10 wins by first-round stoppage), with multiple appearances in K-1 HERO’s, K-1 Dynamite!!, and DREAM. Holds notable victories over Denis Kang, Melvin Manhoef, and Kestutis Smirnovas. His only official loss came in his second MMA match against heavyweight kickboxer Jerome LeBanner, who significantly outweighed him. Akiyama most recently defeated Masanori Tonooka via armbar at DREAM.6 last September.
"I am not pleased with the change. There are just ten days left until the contest for me to determine [Chris Leben’s] threats and the time is insufficient to establish a tailored gameplan. Leben is also not as high-profile as [Wanderlei] Silva and that does not help me."
"If there is to be a replacement I was hoping for a big name. I spent one year preparing hard for this fight and this news has come as a big disappointment, my motivation has waned. I do not know yet what will happen…In the worst case, I will not take part in the [UFC 116] event. We are working hard to resolve this issue."
Fedor vs. Hong is what got us to wake up at 6 a.m. on our day off — but the real highlight of “Yarennoka!”/”Fedor Returns” was easily the 8-minute battle between 187-pounders Kazuo Misaki (black trunks) and Yoshihiro Akiyama (red trunks). Misaki’s wild jumping-bean dance can’t save him from being floored by a punch from Akiyama, who nearly pounds him out on the ground, but Misaki rallies back toward a spectacular finish. Still, there was more behind this fight than the action. Yeo Jong-Hoon gives some historical and political context to the matchup in this article on FightOpinion, and clarifies that what we thought was Misaki paying tribute to Akiyama after the fight was actually him chastising the Korean-born fighter in front of a packed arena. Harsh! A must-read article and a must-see video.