Japanese star Yoshihiro Akiyama may have fallen in his last three bouts and only barely outpointed Alan Belcher to pick up his lone victory inside the Octagon, but former Strikeforce champion Jake Shields sees an incredibly game competitor in front of him going into their match-up this weekend at UFC 144 rather than a veteran heading down the other side of the professional hill.
Shields, himself on two-fight skid, recently shared his thoughts on Akiyama who he expects to be in as fine a form as ever.
“People said he was an undersized middleweight, but he always looked pretty muscular to me,” said Shields in an interview with Full Contact Fighter. “He could be better at this weight, he could be worse at this weight, so I’m just focused on being ready for the best.”
“His striking is good; he has a lot of power. He’s not the most technical striker, he doesn’t put together a lot of combinations, but he comes in and is willing to take a punch to give a punch,” Shields continued before showing his respect, adding, “Guys like that can be dangerous.”
Still, while the 26-6 Shields understands Akiyama is a legitimate challenge, that doesn’t mean he lacks confidence in his ability to pass the test he’ll take on Saturday night in Japan.
“Obviously I think he’s beatable, but he’s a really tough fighter. He’s coming off some losses but most of them have been really close fights, against some tough talent, so I’m definitely not taking him lightly,” the 33-year old concluded.
Akiyama-Shields will serve as part of a seven-fight PPV card at UFC 144 featuring a co-headlining clash between light heavyweights Quinton Jackson-Ryan Bader as well as a main event involving Frankie Edgar defending his lightweight title against Benson Henderson.
PHOTO CREDIT – STRIKEFORCE
MMATraining Take: It’s good Shields isn’t selling Akiyama short who has looked good in defeat other than against Vitor Belfort who is not only much larger than him but also landed a number of illegal blows to the back of his head. I sincerely hope Shields-Akiyama turns into a grappling match since both are fantastic in that regard yet leave a lot to be desired on the striking front.