Yoshihiro Akiyama Signs With The UFC

Jared RussellCorrespondent IFebruary 26, 2009

The UFC recently signed notorious, Korean judoka Yoshihiro "Grease Lighting" Akiyama in a possible attempt to edge its way into the Asian MMA market.

Dana White has expressed interest in moving the UFC in a direction which could include trips to Japan.

Interestingly, this news is coming right around the time George "Grease Lightning II" St.Pierre has been under investigation by NSAC for greasing in his last fight against BJ Penn.

By signing Akiyama, the UFC has now employed the two most famous greasers in MMA.

Akiyama, however may provide some depth to a middleweight division that only has two contenders waiting to face the potent strikes of pound-for-pound king Anderson Silva.

Demian Mai and Yushin Okami remain the two most deserving canindates to square off against The Spider.

However, Akiyama could provide a potential challenge to fighters in the division, with his lethal Judo throws and technical karate.

Beyond all the potential capabilities of this newcomer to the UFC, Akiyama must overcome one challenge he has yet to see in any of his bouts—the cage.

The Octagon could be his greatest weakness in the UFC, the cage provides challenges and strategies that the fighter may not be aware off. Akiyama has fought all his fights within a ring and usually under K-1's MMA rules.

Despite obvious inexperience fighting in a cage, Akiyama could provide a breath of fresh air in a organization largely dominated by wrestlers. Fellow judokas Yoshihiro Yoshida and Dong Hyun Kim showed potential in their first UFC fights, but eventually succumbed to defeat by the hands of UFC veterans.

Akiyama, differs though from Yoshida and Kim. Akiyama is the most accomplished judoka of the three in the sport of MMA. Akiyama has held positions within top-10 rankings and held a title in a major organization.

Akiyama won the K-1 Heroes 7 tournament back in 2006, an event that was held over one night.

So what does this all mean for the MMA scene? Well, for this hopeful fan it would be the resurrection of PRIDE.

However, this is not a likely scenario, but with expansion into Japan it could mean a more diverse UFC. The UFC may start taking an approach similar to PRIDE in its employment process—globalize its stable of fighters.

With MMA becoming popular all over the world, hopefully the UFC will begin to employ more fighters outside the United States, Canada, Brazil, and England.