Yoshihiro Akiyama Is Moving to UFC Welterweight: 7 Fights for His 170lbs Debut
The move makes sense for Akiyama, who has lost three straight in the middleweight division, and there is no doubt that UFC President Dana White is happy about the announcement.
After Akiyama's loss at UFC 133, White made it known that he had been hoping for some time that the Japanese superstar would drop down to 170lbs.
Considering that he has lost three straight in the UFC, losing to Chris Leben and Michael Bisping before Belfort, Akiyama's position with the promotion is rather precarious. He'll need to choose his next fight carefully.
He'll be looking for a name with some recognition, but also someone who isn't overly dangerous—someone beatable.
This is probably the highest risk fight on the list, but it could also have the biggest payoff.
Rory MacDonald is a very dangerous opponent and one of the hottest young prospects in MMA right now. At just 22 years old, he has already amassed a record of 12-1 and has finished all but one of his fights. Many believe that MacDonald is part of the new breed of mixed martial arts fighters and that he has potential to be the next Georges St-Pierre in the welterweight division.
That said, MacDonald hasn't fully developed his game yet and is still a far cry from being considered one of the best fighters in the division. He's only getting better every time we see him in the cage, so the best time to fight MacDonald is now.
MacDonald has never dealt with an opponent with an extensive judo background like Akiyama has, so if Akiyama could close the distance and clinch with MacDonald, he would have a good chance of pulling out the win.
Paulo Thiago made a name for himself right away in the UFC, knocking out Josh Koscheck in his first ever fight with the promotion.
However, since then Thiago has dropped decisions to Jon Fitch and Diego Sanchez, showing that he is susceptible to fighters with good top control. When he fought Chris Leben, Akiyama showed that he has solid control from the top position, though he will need to be wary of Thiago's submissions if they do meet.
Akiyama could also win this fight on the feet.
When Thiago fought Koscheck his hands looked pretty underdeveloped until he landed the uppercut that dropped Koscheck.
Matt Serra is one of the most well-known fighters in the UFC's welterweight division and, despite being inactive for some time, a win over him should still carry some considerable weight.
Serra hasn't fought in almost a year, last competing at UFC 119 against Chris Lytle, and has gone on record saying that he would like to make a return to the UFC some time this fall.
Akiyama fought recently, but should be able to go for some time in the fall, so the timeline fits.
Serra and Akiyama are both known as relatively exciting fighters. A bout between the two of them would be easy to market.
Like Serra, Mike Swick is another well known welterweight who is looking to get back into action after a long layoff.
Swick hasn't fought since way back at UFC 109 and was supposed to make his return at UFC 134 against Eric Silva, but was forced to withdraw from the bout with a knee injury. No doubt, he will be wanting to get back into the Octagon as soon as his knee heals up and Akiyama would be an interesting fight for him.
It would be intriguing to see how Swick does against a fighter with good takedowns, as he has been somewhat guarded from the many talented wrestlers in the UFC's welterweight division since dropping down from middleweight in 2008.
On the flip side, Swick has very quick hands and would be a good fighter to test Akiyama's striking, showing us whether or not Akiyama has made any improvements since losing to Vitor Belfort at UFC 133.
Maybe it's because he's fun to watch, maybe it's because he shaves his chest hair into an arrow, but fans are starting to take notice of Brian Ebersole and he's only had two fights in the UFC.
Ebersole is a tough guy, with loads of experience and he's good in all areas.
He's a durable opponent who can test Akiyama anywhere the fight goes and, considering that both men are fan favorites, the fight would have quite a bit of hype around it.
A fight with Dan Hardy is one of the most marketable options on this list and it might also be the fight that makes the most sense.
Hardy is on a four-fight losing skid and Akiyama has lost three in a row.
Both men are in dire need of a victory and so a "Winner keeps his job loser gets cut" kind of fight would be a good idea.
It's a good matchup for Akiyama, also, considering that he is a judo expert and Hardy is known for having awful takedown defense.
Akiyama has also shown that he likes to stand and bang on occasion, which is what Hardy loves to do. This one definitely has the potential to be a stand-and-bang brawl too.
Dong Hyun Kim
Dong Hyun Kim and Akiyama are both judo specialists and that's what I like the most about this fight.
It's a rarity that we get to see two really good judo practitioners go at it in MMA, but judo is an awesome martial art, so it would be nice to see it put on display more often.
The UFC is currently planning an event in Japan and this bout would be perfect for the main card.
Kim is South Korean and Akiyama is Japanese, so both men have a lot of fans over in Asia.