Hitomi Akano, the Japanese woman who will fight Cristiane "Cris Cyborg" Santos on the April 11 Strikeforce card, is virtually unknown to American MMA fans. But Akano (shown above submitting Megumi Yabushita) will have a well-known American in her corner: Josh Barnett.
Barnett, the consensus Top 5 heavyweight who fights for Affliction, said on HDNet's Inside MMA that he has worked closely with Akano.
"I'll be there in the corner of Hitomi Akano, who's a student of mine, who I've been training for some time," Barnett said.
Although Barnett sounded proud of Akano, he also sounded a little apprehensive about the prospect of Akano fighting Cyborg, who is bigger than Akano and is considered by some observers to be the best female MMA fighter in the world.
"She wasn't particularly training for this event, and she's fighting up a couple of weight classes," Barnett said. "But fights are fights and especially when you're a female fighter, you've got to take fights when you can get them."
Akano has strong submission skills, but it would be a huge upset if she beat Cyborg. And no one would be more upset than Strikeforce and Showtime, which desperately wants Cyborg to keep winning until she's ready to fight Gina Carano.