With Chael Sonnen being suspended by the UFC following his mortgage fraud case, the promotion have had to rethink their plans for Yoshihiro Akiyama who had been expected to face him at UFC 128.
Instead Akiyama has now verbally agreed to face another tough opponent in Nate Marquardt at the New Jersey event on March 19th.
Recent matchmaking like this suggests that Akiyama is highly thought of at Zuffa HQ. While some fighters are being cut from the promotion after just a single fight, the Japanese fighter has now survived despite back-to-back losses, and has now been paired with one of the middleweight division’s top contenders.
Dana White has always said he values fighters who give their all in the octagon and put on exciting fights however, and having won ‘Fight Of The Night’ in all three of his fights for the UFC, Akiyama certainly meets that criteria. The fact that he’s also a star in Asia, a market the promotion are keen to tap into no doubt also helps.
By way of contrast, Marquardt hasn’t been in the UFC president’s good books of late, branding him a “choker” after losing two fights to establish the next No.1 contender in his last three visits to the octagon.
Marquardt is still one of the most talented fighters at 185lbs however, and after being angered by White’s comments he’s likely to be fired up to prove him wrong when he takes on Akiyama.