A long-rumored middleweight fight between Wanderlei Silva (33-10-1 MMA, 3-5 UFC) and Yoshihiro Akiyama (13-1-2 MMA, 1-0 UFC) is set for UFC 116.
Fighters Only magazine confirmed the match-up earlier today, and MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com
) subsequently verified the fight is signed with sources close to the situation.
The fight was originally rumored for UFC 115 on June 12 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Although not officially announced by the promotion, UFC 116 is expected to take place July 3 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar is penciled in as a headliner of the event, though his opponent is not yet confirmed.
Silva, 33, is fresh off a triumphant return to the win column in his most recent performance, a unanimous-decision victory over Michael Bisping at UFC 110 in February.
Up until that point, Silva had faced questions of his long-term viability when he went 1-3 inside the octagon, including a knockout loss to Quinton "Rampage" Jackson at UFC 92 and a decision slide to Rich Franklin at UFC 99. After a seven-year absence from the UFC, "The Axe Murderer" made his return to the promotion in December 2007 with a unanimous decision loss to Chuck Liddell in a fight considered to be among the year's best.
Silva was originally scheduled to face Akiyama at UFC 110, but the promotion felt Bisping would draw better in the Australian event and put the Japanese star on the shelf.
The UFC 110 fight was Silva's first since undergoing surgery to repair tissue damage to his nose and face.
Silva's five-year undefeated streak in the now-defunct PRIDE organization is a feat that has yet to be replicated in a major promotion, though his former teammate, UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva, is fast approaching a spotless four-year streak.
Akiyama has been inactive since his UFC debut this past July at the banner UFC 100, where he defeated Alan Belcher in an action-packed, yet controversial split decision.
In an interview with MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com
) in February, Akiyama said he was disappointed about the canceled fight with Silva and hoped to face him in the future. Sources close to the situation said the fight was being readied for UFC 115 in the event that Silva defeated Bisping and was uninjured after the Australian event. UFC president Dana White later confirmed the matchup was a likelihood for a summer event.
Akiyama has not technically lost a fight since March 2005, though two of his most high-profile encounters – against Kazushi Sakuraba at K-1 Dynamite!! 2006 and Kazuo Misaki at Yarennoka! – resulted in controversial "no contest" results.
The position of Silva vs. Akiyama on the evening's fight card is unknown at this time, but given the popularity of both fighters, a co-main event billing is likely.