The days of fighting overmatched or undersized opponents are over. Yoshihiro Akiyama was a big box office draw while fighting in Japan so promoters teneded to make sure the Asian megastar was showcased in his matches. In the UFC, he's just one of the herd at middleweight. He's put on two awesome shows in going 1-1 but he doesn't like a middleweight title contender and without a win over Michael Bisping, he may be in jeopardy of getting that big fight against, Wanderlei Silva.
What's been the problem? Simply stated, Akiyama doesn't look like he's played to his strengths in either fight. Instead, he chose to slug it out with both Alan Belcher and Chris Leben.
Akiyama explained that he had no choice against Leben, who was a late replacement.
"There were certain things holding me back from fighting my best in that fight," said Akiyama through his translator Ryo Ishibashi. "I felt like I didn’t have enough time to prepare for my opponent. And so during the fight I wasn’t able to come up with a strategy that is specifically for Chris Leben."
It seems a bit preposterous considering that Leben fights one way. "The Crippler" comes straight forward and tries to land left hay-makers. Instead of trying to take the fight to the ground, use his kicks, make sure he circled to his left, Akiyama stood right in front of Leben. Even worse, Akiyama tired badly for the second straight time. If anything, it should've been Leben who gassed. He was the one coming off a week's rest.
Akiyama has pulled out all the stops to try and become a smarter fighter. He spent time with the strategical guru, trainer Greg Jackson in Albuquerque. During the UFC 120 conference call, it sounded as if Bisping isn't buying that some massive change is coming with Akiyama's style.
I’m expecting him to come in hard and fast, looking for the knockout. Obviously, he’s got good judo. And I don’t feel a couple of weeks at Greg Jackson’s is ultimately going to make much difference to how he performs," said Bisping. "You know, two – he can go train anywhere for two weeks, but all the years of training that he’s done prior to that are what’s important."
This is also a huge fight for Bisping, who can't afford another tumble down the 185-pound ladder.