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UFC 144 Preview: Yoshihiro Akiyama/Jake Shields and Yushin Okami/Tim Boetsch

Yoshihiro AkiyamaMMAFrenzy continues our main card coverage of UFC 144 with a pair of breakdowns of Saturday’s card. Each day we will breakdown a pair of fights leading up to our breakdown of the UFC lightweight title fight between Ben Henderson and champion Frankie Edgar.

Today we take a look at a pair of fights with Yoshihiro Akiyama versus Jake Shields and Yushin Okami versus Tim Boetsch.

MMAFrenzy’s coverage of UFC 144 will begin with the Facebook and FX broadcast preliminary fights. Stay tuned to MMAFrenzy for complete coverage of UFC 144.

Yoshihiro Akiyama vs. Jake Shields

Keys for Akyiama (Bryan Robison) – Akiyama has had quite a tough slate during his UFC career, facing four top middleweight contenders in the last two and a half years. While he did put on three “Fight of the Night” performances, he ended up on the losing end in two of those.
The caliber of opponent gets no easier when facing Jake Shields. But fortunately for Akiyama, he does not have to worry about being punched in the face a thousand times like he faced when taking on Vitor Belfort.

With Shields, the longer the fight stays standing, the better Akiyama is served. After years of winning outside of the UFC, and eventually fighting for the UFC welterweight title, Shields striking is still very rudimentary. Akiyama can take advantage of that, with a strong striking pedigree that includes 5 knockouts during his career. Plus, with a world-class Judo background, can take Shields to the ground and overpower the American. As long he stays off his back, Akiyama stands a strong chance in his welterweight debut.

Keys for Shields (CL) – Shields is coming off one of the hardest losses of his career. Shields was knocked out cold for the first time in his career and lost two fights in a row for the first time in his career as well. Shields entered his fight with Jake Ellenberger with a heavy heart, due to his dad’s death, and no matter what he said it affected his training. Shields has taken some time to grieve now and is now looking to return to his winning ways, and improve on his 1-1-1 all-time record in Japan.

The best way for Shields to do this is by drawing the fight out as long as possible. Akiyama has never been known for his endurance whereas Shields is known for being a workhorse.

A big part of this fight will be the grappling game, and Akiyama is known as a particularly slick grappler. A judoka’s main grappling strength lies in the clinch, and generally, it’s a good idea to avoid all grappling with a good judoka. With that said, if you drop low on a low single, most judokas are generally out of their comfort zone. If Shields can set this up, he can use his impressive top game to control Akiyama and generally frustrate the Japanese fighter on his home turf.

While Shields is not the best striker, he has been working on his striking game. Akiyama has a brawling style of striking that uses wild power strikes as its weapon of choice. A great answer to this style is a solid jab. Shields has to be careful however, since his usual jab is a pawing open-handed jab and eye pokes could end the fight in a bad way. That said, if Shields can stifle Akiyama’s wild strikes it will only improve his chances of winning.

Yushin Okami vs. Tim Boetsch

Keys for Boetsch (CL) - For whatever reason, the weight cut to middleweight has seemed to make Boetsch a smarter fighter. Boetsch now uses his usual powerful striking to set up some powerful wrestling and ground control.

Okami is better at the Boetsch’s strengths but Boetsch is very aggressive and that aggressiveness can pay huge dividends if he uses it the proper way. Boetsch has to resist making the mistakes that Mark Munoz made in his fight with Okami. Boetsch cannot just rush in and desparately shoot for takedown after takedown. Instead, he must use his striking to work inside of Okami’s range and set up the takedown attempts by standing in the pocket and then dropping to a shot. If he can do that, expect Boetsch to have his hand raised in Saitama.

Keys for Okami (BR) – 

For Okami, who returns to the cage for the first time since losing to Anderson Silva last August, he could not be facing a more different opponent this time around than in Tim Boetsch. Okami, who is overpowering in the clinch and looks to take the fight to the ground. He fights Boetsch, who is…overpowering in the clinch and looks to take the fight to the ground.

So for Okami, who holds an advantage in striking, he will be able to utilize his quick and forceful jab, along with setting up his takedowns. He certainly will not be able to take Boetsch down at will, but he has faced many opponents over the last few years that have strong wrestling, and he has come out on the winning side most of the time.

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