The UFC 144: Edgar vs. Henderson event will feature a welterweight bout between Japanese favorite Yoshihiro Akiyama and former number one contender Jake Shields. This is a very important fight for both fighters as both have lost their last two fights with Akiyama actually losing three fights in a row. This will be Akiyama’s first crack at fighting as welterweight, which many feel should have been his weight class all along. Let’s see how this fight breaks down.
Yoshihiro Akiyama comes into this fight with a career record of (13-4, 2NC) with seven wins via submission and five wins via TKO/KO. He was last seen getting destroyed by Vitor Belfort via TKO back at UFC 133, where Belfort looked a full weight class larger than him. Although Akiyama is only (1-3) inside the octagon he has won fight of the night three times. He’s a decorated judoka winning the Asian World Championships in 2001 and 2002. However, he has preferred to stand and slug it out with his opponents during his UFC stint.
Jake Shields comes into this fight with a career record of (26-6-1) with 10 wins via submission and three wins via TKO/KO. Shields was last seen in action eating a huge knee from Jake Ellenberger and then getting finished via TKO in just 53 seconds in September 2011. It should be noted that Shields’ father(who was also his manager) had past away suddenly just a few weeks prior to the bout taking place. Shields is an expert grappler, grabbing the bronze medal at the ADCC submission grappling championships. His striking game is barely adequate for someone that’s been in the fight game since 1999 which tells you just how good he is at what he does. Shields has fought in Japan on different occasions so I don’t expect the chance in scenery to affect him much at all.
Shields is the favorite at (-315) and Akiyama as the underdog at (+245).
Those odds are about right. Akiyama is fighting as a welterweight for the first time and Shields should have the edge in the cardio department as well as grappling wise. Akiyama will have the edge standing in this one.
It’s no secret that Shields will look to get this fight to the ground to do what he does best. I expect Akiyama to test Shields early. He’ll probably have some early success in defending the takedown of Shields, but I expect him to fade as the fight goes on. It’s been a common pattern for Akiyama to start strong and then fade late. Once you add in the added weight cut to make the drop down to welterweight we’ll probably see that problem amplified. Akiyama does have power in his hands, so Shields will have to be careful on the feet as it’s possible for him to get caught the same way he did against Ellenberger. However, finishing Shields via TKO/KO is probably the only realistic method of victory for Akiyama.
I think Shields realizes he needs this win badly and goes back to what he does best, and that’s takedowns and controlling his opponents from the top position while looking for submissions. I like Shields here via unanimous decision.