They might be smiling right now, but on Sat., Aug. 6, 2011 at UFC 133 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, fans can expect to see a much more serious Yoshihiro Akiyama and Vitor Belfort as they enter the octagon.
Akiyama, in particular, could very well be fighting for his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) life. That's because company President Dana White said that while he's unsure of what he would do in the event of a "Sexyama" loss, the Japanese judo player is most certainly in a "must win situation."
The announcement comes as somewhat of a surprise considering both the level of competition he's faced and the amount of excitement Akiyama brings to the table each time he performs.
Since joining the UFC in 2009, Akiyama has gone 1-2 with a win over Alan Belcher and losses to Chris Leben and Michael Bisping, respectively. All three fights have earned him the coveted "Fight of the Night" bonus.
Which could be why White is so non-committal in possibly getting rid of him.
On the one hand, Zuffa is generally very transparent regarding their stance on three-fight losing streaks. In short, they don't put up with them. You know the game -- three strikes and you're out. That is their rule of thumb and there are very few exceptions.
It's also hard to overlook that Akiyama has not really developed a stateside fan base. It's been difficult for American fight followers to get behind a fighter who just might spend an equal amount of time on his hair and his modeling as he does his MMA career.
Is all that unfair? Let's be real: The guy has fought Alan Belcher, Chris Leben, Michael Bisping and now Vitor Belfort. That's a list filled with top contenders and Akiyama wasn't dominated by any of them.
Then again, not everyone is Tito Ortiz, right?
Will Akiyama become the most recent edition to the growing list of Zuffa releases? With a loss to Belfort on Saturday night, that just might be the case.
But would that be fair? Sound off, Maniacs.