A year ago, Jake Shields was on a fifteen-fight winning streak including a who’s who of MMA. Carlos Condit, Yushin Okami, Martin Kampmann, Paul Daley, Jason Miller, Robbie Lawler, Dan Henderson – all taken out by the soft-spoken Californian over an incredible six-year run. Today, Shields is sitting on a pair of losses with one featuring the sting of falling short in a title-fight and the other a devastating knockout in the opening round.
It appears things won’t get easier for the former Strikeforce middleweight champ anytime soon as the UFC has announced Shields will take on Yoshihiro Akiyama on February 26 at UFC 144 in Saitama, Japan.
Akiyama is immensely popular in the country and will also be making his welterweight debut after moderate success as a middleweight. The 36-year old is 13-4 overall but has lost his last three after having previously picked up wins over Melvin Manhoef, Denis Kang, and Alan Belcher, meaning more than a win will be on the line in Saitama Super Arena as his pride/career are clearly at stake too.
UFC 144 is set to be headlined by Frankie Edgar defending his lightweight championship against former WEC title-holder Ben Henderson. More bouts are expected to be announced in the coming weeks with numerous fighters expressing interesting in a spot on the organization’s return to the Far East.
PHOTO CREDIT – STRIKEFORCE
MMATraining Take: Truly intelligent matchmaking by the UFC, as it should be a competitive match-up and also involves high-level grappling which fans in Japan have a genuine appreciation for. Akiyama’s judo against Shields’ wrestling/BJJ is an intriguing concept, plus it should be incredible to see Akiyama walk down to the Octagon in front of his hometown crowd.