MMA

Thiago Alves vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama Booked for UFC 149 in Calgary

Yoshihiro Akiyama (James Law/HeavyMMA)

Welterweights agree to bout on July 21 pay-per-view in Canada

A crucial welterweight bout for two fighters with recent struggles has been booked for this summer in Canada.

Thiago Alves and Yoshihiro Akiyama have agreed to fight at UFC 149, which takes place in Calgary, Alberta. The UFC announced the fight late Tuesday. Though its placement on the card was not given, the fight is likely to be part of the main card on pay-per-view.

UFC 149 is scheduled for July 21 at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary. It will be the UFC’s first visit to Canada’s third largest city and just the second Zuffa visit to the province of Alberta after WEC 49 took place in Edmonton in June 2010. Featherweight champion Jose Aldo is expected to defend his title in the main event, though his opponent for the fight has not yet been announced.

Alves (19-9, 11-6 UFC) is coming off a devastating loss to Martin Kampmann in the main event of UFC on FX 2 last month in Sydney, Australia. Alves dominated Kampmann for more than two rounds. But late in the third, he shot for a takedown – right into a Kampmann guillotine choke. Alves was forced to tap with just 48 seconds left in the fight.

That loss gave him four setbacks in his last six bouts, and three of five since losing a unanimous decision to Georges St-Pierre in a welterweight title fight at UFC 100 in July 2009. His wins since then have come against Papy Abedi at UFC 138 last fall, and John Howard at UFC 124. But he has unanimous decision losses to Jon Fitch and Rick Story. His UFC job might not be on the line with a loss to Akiyama, but dropping five of seven would be a crucial blow to his standing in the 170-pound weight class.

Akiyama (13-5, 2 NC, 1-4 UFC) is in must-win territory. The popular Japanese fighter has lost four straight since winning his UFC debut with a split decision against Alan Belcher in a middleweight fight at UFC 100. “Sexyama” followed that up with a Fight of the Night submission loss to Chris Leben at UFC 116, then lost a Fight of the Night unanimous decision to Michael Bisping at UFC 120 – giving him three straight best fight bonus awards. At UFC 133 in August, he was knocked out by Vitor Belfort – the first time he had been knocked out since 2005.

In February, fighting in his native Japan for the first time since a 2008 win for Dream, he dropped to welterweight to face recent title challenger and former Strikeforce middleweight champion Jake Shields at UFC 144. But he dropped a unanimous decision, giving him four straight losses. Though the scores for Shields appeared lopsided, all 30-27, the court of public opinion was varied – with many MMA analysts and media members scoring the close fight as a win for Akiyama.

Other bouts announced for UFC 149 all include Canadian fighters: a middleweight contest between “The Ultimate Fighter” winner Court McGee and Canadian Nick Ring; a bantamweight bout between Bryan Caraway and Canadian Mitch Gagnon, who will be making his UFC debut; a lightweight fight between Canadian Mitch Clark and Anton Kuivanen; and a featherweight fight between George Roop and Canada’s Antonio Carvalho.

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