Eyeing a fourth straight UFC loss, Japanese standout Yoshihiro Akiyama (13-4, 2 NC) is hoping a return home will be the remedy he covets. According to Monday reports, "Sexyima" is set to make his welterweight debut against former Strikeforce champion Jake Shields (26-6-1) at Zuffa's February return to Japan -- UFC 144. Promotion officials have confirmed the matchup.
Akiyama, a former K-1 Hero's light heavyweight grand prix champion, hopes the drop in weight will elicit a return to his winning ways after suffering consecutive losses to Chris Leben, Michael Bisping, and Vitor Belfort. A three-time "Fight of the Night" winner, the 36-year-old is a fan-favorite notorious for his frenetic style and penchant for firefights.
Meanwhile, Shields hopes to curb his own slump after suffering consecutive losses for the first time of his career. Following his failed title challenge in April, the 32-year-old met a quick end against rising prospect Jake Ellenberger at UFC Fight Night 25. Shield's father, Jack Shields, passed away less a month before the bout due to complications with congestive heart failure.
UFC 144 is slated for February 26, 2012 at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. A championship lightweight tilt between Ben Henderson and Frankie Edgar headlines the event.
UFC 144 fight card:
Lightweight Championship: Ben Henderson vs. Frankie Edgar
Welterweight: Yoshihiro Akiyama vs. Jake Shields