UFC middleweight Chris “The Crippler” Leben has displayed true fighting spirit by stepping in for an injured Wanderlei Silva against Japanese-Korean Judo player Yoshihiro Akiyama, not only on two weeks notice but also only two weeks after he defeated Aaron Simpson at The Ultimate Fighter 11 Finale. Leben is taking a big risk that could potentially have a huge payoff and also does not have much of a downside. Should he lose to Akiyama, it’s okay because he took the fight on such short notice and before he has had time to fully heal from his previous fight; he won’t be any closer to a title shot but he will have earned some serious brownie points with the UFC brass. Should he win, however, he will have taken out a rising middleweight contender in the co-main event of one of the UFC’s biggest cards of 2010; not such a bad gamble to make. Leben discussed in a last-minute, pre-fight hype video what drove him to take the fight, his thoughts on Akiyama as an opponent and what he believes are his keys to victory.
“When the fans pay to watch Chris Leben fight, they get what they paid for,” said the fighter formerly known as “The Cat Smasher.” “I wanna go in and let ’em fly and put on a good show and I think I’m gonna do a great job. I think I’m gonna go in and do what I do, that’s knock people out and everyone’s gonna go home happy.”
Leben astutely pointed out that securing a win over Akiyama would make some serious waves in the UFC’s middleweight division and that fact helped drive him to take the fight on only two weeks’ notice.
“It’s an opportunity that I can’t pass up,” he said. “I go out there and I win this fight, it’s gonna shake things up.”
Leben’s opponent, Akiyama (commonly referred to on MMA forums as “Sexyama”), is commonly considered to be one of the top ten middleweights in the world and has used his striking infused Judo style to net impressive wins over fighters like Melvin Manhoef, Denis Kang and Alan Belcher. In the hype video, Leben explained why he is poised to upset Akiyama this Saturday.
“He’s a Judo guy that likes to stand and bang, he’s got a fast kick,” said Leben. “The case with Akiyama is the case with anybody: if they decide they want to stand in front of me and bang, then they’re gonna hit the canvas. Bottom line is–look at our records, who’s got more knockouts? This’ll be my fifteenth fight now in the UFC and I’ve knocked out some of the top competitors.”
Leben, who owns knockout or technical knockout wins over the likes of Aaron Simpson, Jorge Rivera, Alessio Sakara, Terry Martin, Jorge Santiago, Mike Swick and more, believes that getting the standing KO is not his only chance at victory. The former Team Quest member believes in his grappling ability against the Judoka and is confident should the fight hit the ground.
“I can take this guy down, put him on his back and ground him out too so now he’s got a couple different dangers that he’s gotta worry about, that he’s gotta face,” Leben said. “I’m gonna go out and I’m gonna do what I do; I’m gonna put in work. I’m like a meat and potatoes fighter. You’re not gonna see spinning back kicks, you’re not gonna see all kinds of crazy, flashy stuff like Mr. Sexy likes to do; you’re gonna see a blue collar American go in there and get his job done.”
Leben and Akiyama will square off in the co-main event of UFC 116 this Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. The main event will feature UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar and Interim UFC Heavyweight Champion Shane Carwin battling it out for the undisputed heavyweight title.