The main event will pit the extremely resilient Frankie Edgar against the workhorse that is Ben 'Smooth' Henderson. Edgar will look to have the belt clasped back firmly around his waist in front of thousads of enthused Japanese fights fans, if he is able to weather what certainly could be a ferocious thunder from the Mr. Smooth.
But before we can get to that, heck even before the co-main event between Japanese fan favorite Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson and Ultimate Fighter season 7 winner Ryan Bader clash heads, there is an interesting bout taking place in the 170lbs Welterweight division.Carlos Condit, Robbie Lawler, Dan Henderson, Martin Kampmann, Yushin Okami, and Jason Miller. Shields ran in to a problem once he made his way to the big stage of the UFC.
In his first outing he edged a split decision that many felt should have went the way of Martin Kampmann's. Follow that fight up with a loss to current UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre, who is sidelined currently with an injury, and a more recent loss to a new contender in Jake Ellenberger, in which Ellenberger clobbered his way to a knockout of Shields in just 53 seconds.
Shields is now in desperate need to prove he is indeed as dangerous as he had previously looked as he is now staring down the potential of falling entirely off the radar, or maybe even more so, being shifted back to Strikeforce of where he once came.
The man standing in his way will be the hard headed sex symbol from Japan in Yoshihiro Akiyama.
'Sexyama' finds himself in dire straits as well, as the 'Asian Brad Pitt' has just one close split decision win over Alan Belcher way back at UFC 100 when he made his debut in the UFC. Since that time Akiyama had lost 3 consecutive fights to a zombie like Chris Leben who surprised Akiyama with a triangle choke, Michael Bisping, who out pointed Akiyama rather handily, and most recently Vitor Belfort, who seperated Akiyama from consiousness at UFC 133 back in August, 2011.
Akiyama agreed to make the move to the Welterweight division at the request of UFC President Dana White. A picture circulated late last year showing what Yoshihiro had accomplished and what he will look like come fight night Saturday hopefully. It was a very impressive picture to say the least.
Now that we've had a quick history lesson let's break down the fight.
Come Saturday evening Shields will have to utilize his experience that garnered him a fifteen fight win streak in the first place. I mean c'mon, it's not as if the man was beating scrubs night in and out. He's took the punishment of Henderson and kept on ticking, avoided the flurries of Lawler, found his way around Condit, survived (by the bell) from 'Mayhem' and more. If Shields sticks to his gameplan and keeps calm, cool and collected, this should be a rather mundane walk in the park.
On the other hand, Akiyama is fighting in front of his home crowd and should be just as desperate, if not more, to show that he still has some fight left in him. I expect the cardio of Akiyama's to have slightly improved as I'm hoping he's taking this extremely large opportunity to the utmost seriousness. With his crowd backing him and his stubborn chin holding him on his feet, Shields will have to make certain to avoid as much stand up as possible and look to get this one over with quickly or survive the 1st round and a half hoping the cardio of Akiyama will decimate.
If Akiyama isn't able to 'Ellenberger' Shields early on in the opening frame when his gas tanks riding of 'F', he could be in for an extremely long night, and so could the eager Japanese crowd who will undoubtedly be dissapointed in their country's hero.
Ulitmately Shields will come out, test this one on the feet for a quick moment, suffer a couple of hasty jabs by Akiyama who has a three inch reach advantage, see that he is not to comfortable with the power he's facing, utilize an attempted takedown, though Akiyama will have enough strength to muster up a stand up. Once back on the feet look for Shields to press the action against the fence and keep tight to avoid damage. It will be at this point that Shields will work his jiu-jitsu and find an opening on the neck of Akiyama.
Jake Shields takes this one by standing rear naked choke in the opening frame.