Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has announced a blockbuster welterweight match-up for its return to Japan, pitting former division number one contender Jake Shields against Yoshihiro Akiyama in the sexy one's 170-pound debut.
"Verbal agreements are in for a welterweight matchup in Tokyo, Japan between former Strikeforce champion Jake Shields and Asian superstar ‘Sexyama' Yoshihiro Akiyama February 26th," said UFC President Dana White.
UFC 144, which takes place on Feb. 26, 2012, in Japan's Saitama Super Arena, is expected to air stateside on Saturday night (Feb. 25) in its usual pay-per-view time slot due to the difference in time zones.
Shields (26-6-1) is coming off back-to-back losses for the first time in his career.
After falling to the Canadian jab of death against Georges St. Pierre at UFC 129 last April, the former Strikeforce middleweight champion was stiffened by Jake Ellenberger at UFC Fight Night 25, just days after the passing of his father, back on Sept. 17.
Will he be ready for "Sexyama?"
Akiyama (13-4) was kicked out of the middleweight division by Vitor Belfort, who knocked some ugly into him at the UFC 133 event last August. It was the third consecutive loss for the bloated 185-pounder, who is shedding some skin to preserve his Octagon career.
And what better place to do it than the "Land of the Rising Sun?"
UFC 144 is expected to be headlined by a 155-pound title fight featuring Ben Henderson, fresh off his unanimous decision win over Clay Guida, taking on reigning lightweight champion Frankie Edgar.
Stay tuned to MMAmania.com for future updates to this still-developing fight card.