Former EliteXC and Strikeforce champ Jake Shields will welcome Japanese star Yoshihiro Akiyama to the welterweight division when the two face off at UFC 144 on February 26, 2012 in Saitama, Japan. UFC officials announced the bout today. Akiyama makes the drop down after three defeats at 185.
The card is also expected to feature a UFC Lightweight Championship bout between Frankie “The Answer” Edgar and Ben “Smooth” Henderson, who picked up a big win this past weekend. Edgar avenged the lone defeat of his career by stopping Gray “The Bully” Maynard at UFC 136 last month.
Shields (26-6-1) and Akiyama (13-4-0, 2 NC) are both in need of a big victory after recent losing skids. Shields’s 15-fight winning streak was snapped by Georges “Rush” St. Pierre at UFC 129 and he most recently suffered a quick knockout loss to Jake “The Juggernaut” Ellenberger. Akiyama has struggled inside the Octagon as well and has dropped three straight fights against middleweight contenders. The judoka will now match his formidable ground skills against those of Shields, whose jiu-jitsu is among the best in the 170-pound division.
Edgar (14-1-1) and Henderson (15-2-0) are coming off of thrilling victories in their most recent outings. Edgar has not tasted defeat since his lone setback against Maynard in April 2008, while Henderson, a former WEC Lightweight Champion, has lost just once in his last 14 fights. Edgar has shown marked improvement in his striking and outboxed both Maynard and former champion B.J. Penn in title fights. Henderson’s wrestling and jiu-jitsu remain his strongpoints, but he has also found success on the feet in his three UFC victories, including this past weekend against Clay “The Carpenter” Guida.
UFC 144 takes place on February 26, 2012 at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.
(Photo Credit: Sherdog.com)