UFC 144 finally has its first native to welcome to the Octagon for the UFC’s return to Japan in February, as Yoshihiro Akiyama will be making his welterweight debut against recent title challenger Jake Shields.
Akiyama, who is currently on a three fight losing streak, will be taking on Shields, who is sporting a two fight losing streak of his own.
Akiyama (13-4-2) previously fought at middleweight for the first four fights of his UFC career, going 1-3 during that span. His lone win came in his debut against Alan Belcher at UFC 100 in a controversial split decision. Since that victory, he has lost to Chris Leben, Michael Bisping, and Vitor Belfort. His last loss came to Belfort at UFC 133 in August. Following that loss, it was announced that Akiyama would continue as a member of the UFC, but would be making the drop to 170 pounds for his next bout.Jake Shields (26-6-1) is experiencing a similar fortune to Akiyama, as he is currently riding the first losing streak of his career. Prior to losing to welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre at UFC 129 in April, Shields had won his previous fifteen fights, including victories over Carlos Condit, Yushin Okami, and Dan Henderson.
Shields was set to return from the championship loss by taking on Jake Ellenberger in September at UFC Fight Night 25, but a few weeks prior to the event, his father unexpectedly passed away. Shields decided to proceed with the matchup in which he ended up losing to Ellenberger within the first minute of the fight via knockout. This was the first time Shields was knocked out in over ten years.
Akiyama was also the victim of a brutal knockout in his most-recent fight, as he was knocked out rather quickly by Vitor Belfort at UFC 133. Much like Shields, this was also the first knockout Akiyama endured since the early stages of his career.
UFC 144 airs on Feb. 25 in the UFC’s regular Saturday night pay-per-view slot from from the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan and is headlined by UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar vs. Ben Henderson.
Pictured: Yoshihiro Akiyama