Yoshihiro "Sexyama" Akiyama proved in a close decision loss to Jake Shields at UFC 144 in Japan that he can be a force in the UFC's welterweight division.
His losing record in the UFC is more of a reflection of bizarre matchmaking than an indication of Akiyama's abilities.
After defeating Alan Belcher in his UFC debut via controversial split-decision, Akiyama next faced late replacement Chris Leben. In a 2010 Fight of the Year candidate, Leben rallied for an improbable and thrilling third-round finish via triangle-choke.
Despite the loss, Akiyama curiously received a jump up in competition. He has now received three top-10 fighters in a row: Michael Bisping, Vitor Belfort and then Shields last night in Japan. He lost all three, but his close fights against Bisping and Shields show that he can hang with the best in the world.
The reality is that he is a big, strong welterweight with powerful punches, a great chin and a world-class Judo base.
In his welterweight debut, coming off of three straight losses, why he was not matched up with the Amir Sadollahs, Matt Browns or Dan Hardys of the world is beyond me.
In Shields, he was facing a man who also cuts a lot of weight and who is still a legitimate top-10 welterweight despite two recent setbacks.
Akiyama can definitely be a force at welterweight. It's just a matter of whether or not he and UFC matchmaker Joe Silva can agree on an opponent fitting in rankings and public stature.