The main card of UFC 144 in Japan is underway. One Bay Area fighter has managed a big win in a new weight class to make sure his spot in the UFC is secure for the time being.
Jake Shields, fighting out of San Francisco, cut weight to take a welterweight fight against Japanese fighting icon Yoshihiro Akiyama (who was announced to the crowd by just his nickname, "SEXYAMA," in a burst of sheer awesomeness). The first round consisted of an extended feeling-out process. Akiyama demonstrated plenty of takedown defense and executed a pair of authoritative judo throws on Shields in the last minute. Shields landed more strikes in the first round, but Akiyama looked much better on defense.
The second round was much the same, as Akiyama avoided takedowns and landed another fierce judo throw in the final minute. Shields again landed more punches than Akiyama, but they seemed to do little damage. The second round could have gone either way.
The third round was another round of Shields getting stuffed in his takedown attempts. Finally, in the final minute, Shields got Akiyama down and took his back. Akiyama twice in succession grabbed the cage to prevent being taken all the way to the ground, but Shields got him down and went for a rear naked choke. He was unable to sink it in, but the huge takedown and control looked like it might be enough to put him over the top for the win. Sure enough, the judges awarded Shields the victory by unanimous decision, on scores of 30-27, 30-27, 30-27.
Shields was hoping for a win to get back on the right track in the UFC. He came into the fight following back-to-back losses against Jake Ellenberger and Georges St.-Pierre and a questionable split decision victory over Martin Kampmann. A third loss in a row might have threatened his future with the UFC.
In the match right before Shields', Tim Boetsch pulled off one of the best comeback wins in UFC history, taking an absolute pounding for two rounds before coming back to overwhelm Yushin Okami and win by KO in 0:54 of the third round.
Results on the main card so far: