Yoshihiro Akiyama survived an early low blow, and being dumped out of the ring, in his ONE Championship debut. He could not, however, overcome Agilan Thani.
At 43 years old, and four years removed from his last UFC fight, Yoshihiro Akiyama was one of the more unlikely additions to the ONE Championship roster lately. The Japanese fighter, however, remains a popular figure in Asia, in the sport, and clearly felt he had something left to give. Saturday in Shanghai, China at ONE’s Legendary Quest card, Akiyama gave all he had against Agilan Thani. Thani, a former welterweight title challenger who had come up short to Ben Askren, did not give the Japanese star a warm welcome to the promotion.
Akiyama came out looking strong, finding some success on the feet early, which led to a judo throw takedown. But as the round wore on, Thani began to take control. His grinding pace began to wear Akiyama down, but a knee by Thani connected low, sending Japan’s ‘Sexiyama’ crashing to the canvas in pain. That gave him five minutes to recover, while Thani paced nervously in his corner. A No Contest was in the air.
Akiyama took nearly the full block of recovery time, and had to be helped to his feet. Yet he chose to continue, and immediately fired off a front kick. Thani would answer with a kick of his own, and hold the edge on the feet, connecting with several strikes by round’s end.
It was hard to imagine that Akiyama wasn’t still feeling that low blow. In the second, he barely avoided an early flying knee attack. Later in the round, adding insult to injury, he was dumped out of the ring by Thani, slipping between the ropes during a takedown attempt. Thani would land a few belly-to-back takedowns from there, but as time progressed, Thani faded. He found himself hemmed in. Trapped in the corner. Akiyama had an opening, but as the fight devolved into a slugfest, he simply didn’t have enough left in the tank himself. That, despite Thani practically standing still, hands low.
In the third, Thani found his second wind. Akiyama did not. The slugfest continued, but it was Thani landing more, moving just a little better. Akiyama refused to go away easy, firing a late spinning backfist, and trading to the end.
It just wasn’t enough. Thani took home the unanimous decision win when it went to the judges. Yet another UFC star had come up short in his ONE Championship debut. Yet unlike Eddie Alvarez, Yushin Okami, and Sage Norhtcutt before him, Akiyama at least went the distance in a highly entertaining co-main event fight.
Official Result: Agilan Thani def. Yoshihiro Akiyama by unanimous decision