Yoshihiro Akiyama vs. Jake Shields booked for February 26 in Japan

Fan-favorite Yoshihiro Akiyama will get his wish and compete in Japan as lobbied for when the UFC first announced the plan to return to the Land of the Rising Sun with an event early next year.

According to the UFC, “Sexyama” will face grappling ace Jake Shields in a co-headlining clash at UFC 144. The bout will also mark the 36-year old’s welterweight debut after struggling to find his footing inside the Octagon at 185 pounds.

Akiyama Discusses Decision to Drop to Welterweight

The 13-4 Akiyama has made a reputation for himself as one of the sport’s “must see” fighters with his showmanship and all-out approach to competition. However, at 5’10” his warrior spirit translated into a trio of consecutive losses capped off by a strike-based stoppage to Vitor Belfort at UFC 133, prompting the Japanese icon to cut down to 170 pounds as UFC President Dana White had openly wished for.

Shields is a former Strikeforce champion with a series of significant victories including wins over Martin Kampmann, Robbie Lawler, Jason Miller, and UFC 139 headliner Dan Henderson.

UFC 144 is expected to be headlined by lightweight champion Frankie Edgar defending his belt against rising star Ben Henderson. No other bouts have been officially announced thus far.

PHOTO CREDIT – UFC