Name me a match up in the UFC Middleweight division that could possibly be more exciting than Wanderlei Silva vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama. Replace an injured ‘Axe Murderer’ with ‘The Crippler’, sit back, and watch the fireworks ensue.
“I am not pleased with the change. There are just ten days left until the contest for me to determine [Leben’s] threats and the time is insufficient to establish a tailored gameplan. Leben is also not as high profiled as Silva and that does not help me.” – Akiyama responds after hearing the news of his new opponent (Daum.net)
” I don’t know a ton about Akiyama…I saw him fight Alan Belcher and to be honest with you, I thought he lost that fight. He’s a good Judo guy, he’s got great Judo, fast kicks, maybe not the most power in the world…I think that utilizing my skills, keeping it on the feet and clubbing him in the head with my left shouldn’t be too much of a problem.” – Leben on Akiyama (BjPenn.com)
Leben ended up defeating Akiyama via triangle choke with only 20 seconds remaining in the fight. Akiyama arguably took the first two rounds of this back and forth slugfest, but the end result saw Leben capturing his 2nd win in just 14 days. On a night where all of the buzz was surrounding a colossal showdown between Lesnar and Carwin, these two middleweights provided a worthy 14 minutes and 40 seconds of relentless action that earned my vote for MMA Fight of the Year.