Japanese superstar and UFC and PRIDE veteran Yoshihiro Akiyama today revealed his next opponent in the Octagon: he'll face mixed martial arts legend Wanderlei Silva.
While Akiyama did not indicate when the bout would take place, sources close to the UFC have confirmed with Heavy.com that the bout will likely serve as the co-main event for UFC 111 in Sydney, Australia.
UFC 111 will mark the first time the UFC has visited Australia. It will take place in late February.*
Akiyama debuted in the UFC in July at UFC 100 with a razor-thin split decision victory over Alan Belcher. Akiyama has been undefeated since 2005.
The Akiyama bout will serve as Silva's debut in the middleweight division. Silva is on the smaller side of the UFC's light heavyweight division, and decided to drop to middleweight after going 2-4 at light heavyweight.
The Fallout: On the surface, this appears to be a sublime piece of matchmaking by Joe Silva.
Wanderlei Silva has reached a unique level of popularity where his wins and losses in the cage matter very little. His wild, attacking style will always be a selling point for any pay per view event. Because of that popularity, a victory over "Sexyama" would likely put him close to the contender's chair for Anderson Silva's bout, regardless of his recent record.
On the flip side, it should be obvious that a victory for Akiyama over the former PRIDE legend*will mean something to the casual fan. The Japanese superstar, one of the biggest MMA stars to ever come out of Japan, earned a legion of new UFC fans with his unique entrance, reckless fighting style and razor-thin victory over Alan Belcher at UFC 100.
Silva is just 1-5 in his last six bouts, including a 1-3 record in the UFC. He shouldn't even be in the discussion centering around potential opponents for Anderson Silva.*Because of Silva's popularity, however, that record won't even register in Joe Silva's mind when crafting matches.
The only thing that truly matters in this case is Silva's popularity and penchant for putting on exciting performances. The very public grudge Wanderlei maintains with Anderson Silva certainly doesn't hurt, either.*
The scarcity of interesting contenders to The Spider's middleweight throne means that the winner of this bout will likely be one win away from a title bout, and an exciting finish by either man could earn him an immediate shot at the belt.