Chris Leben proved to anyone who held his status as a go-for-broke, true blue warrior in doubt that they are in fact dead wrong. Leben stepped up two weeks after he knocked out tough middleweight Aaron Simpson to take on Japanese-Korean Judoka and international superstar Yoshihiro Akiyama in an injured Wanderlei Silva’s stead. That was more than enough to cement his status as a fearless competitor but Leben took it one step further and came back from a two round deficit against Akiyama to submit the Judo player with a triangle in the third round.
The first round of their fight was marked by Akiyama’s varied attack; he used effective striking coupled with solid takedowns and Judo trips that he put a stamp on with stifling top control to easily cinch the first stanza. The second round turned into an all-out slugfest where Akiyama proved that his chin can actually handle Leben’s bombs and vice versa. What Akiyama could not withstand however was the pace of the fight. As he made his way to the stool in between rounds he nearly collapsed. The third round started out as more of the same with both men trading leather and with Akiyama’s hands dropping ever lower. Despite his obvious exhaustion, Akiyama seemed to be on his way to winning the fight by out-grappling Leben again in the final frame until Leben slapped on a triangle choke that forced Akiyama to tap with under thirty seconds left in the fight.
Leben had everything to gain by taking this fight and he certainly improved his station in the middleweight division and with the UFC brass by doing so and by getting the victory; not to mention the many fans he is sure to have won over with his willingness to take the fight and his gutsy performance. Leben called out Wanderlei Silva in his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan and, with Silva being out indefinitely with his rib injury, should that bout come to fruition (and it should) it will likely afford Leben plenty of time to get some much-needed rest.