UFC 144: Jake Shields vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama Breakdown
UFC 144 marks the highly anticipated return of the organization to the Land of the Rising Sun.
Headlining the event will be a lightweight championship tilt pitting Frankie Edgar against Ben Henderson, while Pride vet Quinton "Rampage" Jackson makes his return against Ryan Bader.
One of the more notable bouts taking place in the prestigious event will showcase Japan's own Yoshihiro Akiyama as he takes on former Strikeforce titleholder Jake Shields.
Both men are in dire straits leading into the pivotal welterweight affair, as both men are riding a streak of losses heading into the matchup.
A loss for either man here will likely spell the end of their UFC careers.
Shields' Grappling Rivals Akiyama
Akiyama hails from a long and extensive career as a Judo specialist.
A third dan black belt, Akiyama had scored gold in 2001 for the Asian Championships, and the following year earned gold again at the Busan Asian Games in the 81 kg field.
The grappling ace later transitioned his success from the mat to the ring. Akiyama subsequently went undefeated during a 13-fight stretch overseas, which saw him score victories over the likes of Melvin Manhoef and Denis Kang, making him a legitimate Top 10 fighter.
His grappling prowess was obvious over lesser competition, and it's shown, as Akiyama has fared worse inside the Octagon—most notably, his submission defeat to the unheralded jiu-jitsu skills of Chris Leben.
Against Shields, Akiyama finds his superior.
An underrated wrestler, Shields has successfully become one of the sport's more dangerous submission specialists. His submission victories over the likes of UFC veterans Nick Thompson, Paul Daley and Robbie Lawler are evidence of his world-class skills.
A black belt under Cesar Gracie, Shields is no man to mess with on the ground. And if the Californian decides to take the action to the mat, expect a swift and deftly applied submission in the early goings of the fight.
Akiyama Holds a Decided Striking Advantage
Though Akiyama hails from a prestigious Judo background, the "Fight of the Night" enthusiast has fallen in love with his heavy hands as of late.
Beginning with his knockout victory over then top middleweight fighter Denis Kang in 2007, Akiyama has continued to plug away with his striking skills, developing a dangerous array of punches that have helped garner the Japanese fighter many exciting battles inside the Octagon.
Against Shields, Akiyama holds a decided advantage standing up.
Though neither are very polished strikers, Akiyama still holds a decided advantage, as he is the more comfortable of the two on foot. The longer the fight stays upright, the longer it will favor the heavy-handed slugger in Yoshihiro.
Shields Sends Akiyama Packing
Akiyama may hold a black belt in Judo, but his grappling skills barely hold a candle to the jiu-jitsu ace in Shields.
The Gracie fighter will be able to bring Akiyama to the canvas, where it will be just a matter of time before the American cinches up the fight-ending submission victory—most likely by armbar in the early goings of the match.
The win will help keep Shields afloat in the UFC, while a loss would be the final blow to Akiyama's dwindling career in the organization. In all likelihood, he will find himself on the market for a new place to call home following his fourth consecutive defeat.