Yoshihiro Akiyama has lost three straight bouts, but he could be a different fighter when he meets Jake Shields on Feb. 26 at UFC 144.
He’ll be dropping from 185 pounds to 170, and although Shields expects to win, he thinks it’s a good move for his opponent.
“I think this is the correct weight for him,” Shields told the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Beatdown” show. “You never know how he’s going to drop the weight, but if he drops it correctly, he’ll be faster and probably in better shape down here. I’m expecting a tough fight. Even though he’s coming off a couple of losses, he’s a great fighter.”
Shields is also coming off consecutive losses. Last April he dropped a unanimous decision to welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre -- his first defeat since 2004 -- and was then stopped by Jake Ellenberger in September. Perhaps his toughest loss came outside of the cage, though, when his father died prior to the Ellenberger bout.
“It was really a tough time period with that going on and I had the fight coming up and then losing the fight on top of it,” Shields said. “It was a really tough couple of months for me. I wasn’t feeling good for a couple of months, but I got myself back together. I’ve been training really hard and now I feel great. I’m ready to go out there and bounce back strong in 2012.”
Akiyama’s background is judo, but he doesn’t hesitate to stand and strike. Against Shields, he’ll likely want to stay on his feet. Shields, however, will want the fight on the mat.
“Of course I’ve been working a lot of standup, but ideally I’d like to get this to the ground at some point,” he said. “I’m going to try to stand with him and try to take him down and submit him. Taking him down is not an easy task. No one’s really taken him down in the UFC yet. He’s got really strong hips. … He’s got great throws and good hands, but I think his missing element is sometimes his submissions.”
Chris Leben submitted Akiyama with a triangle choke in July 2010, but Akiyama has also scored some subs of his own. Shields is well aware that he can’t get lackadaisical on the ground.
“They do have submissions in judo,” he said. “You can’t get too cocky and be like, ‘Oh, I can leave things out there.’ I think my submissions are certainly better than his, but he is a guy good enough that if you’re stupid and make a mistake, he can catch you.”
Still, Shields is focused on Akiyama’s punching, particularly his overhand right and his hook. He also acknowledged some concern regarding the questionable tactics Akiyama has used in the past.
“He is a guy that has shown that he’ll cheat any opportunity he gets,” Shields said. “But I think the UFC’s pretty good, and hopefully they’ll have good inspectors out there watching him and making sure he doesn’t try to do anything dirty.”
Listen to the full interview (beginning at :47).