Akiyama caught a kick and put Leben on the ground just seconds into the first round, but Leben had no trouble getting back to his feet. After an exchange of strikes that included an accidental Akiyama low blow, Akiyama took Leben down and the two traded arm bar attempts. It was that kind of first round, back and forth both on the feet and on the ground, but Akiyama probably did enough to win it 10-9.
In the second round both men were visibly exhausted while dropping big punches on each other, with both of them landing punches and neither one of them putting up much defense. At times both Akiyama and Leben looked like they were out on their feet, and the sloppy, brawling nature played into the kind of fight that Leben likes. It was a round I gave to Leben, 10-9.
Early in the third Leben looked fresher and landed some clean strikes, but Akiyama caught a lazy Leben kick and put Leben on his back. From there it was a ground battle in which Akiyama was on top but Leben went for an arm bar and was much more active from his back, eventually sinking in atriangle choke that forced Akiyama to tap.
Leben, who knocked out Aaron Simpson two weeks ago, agreed to take the fight with Akiyama after Wanderlei Silva pulled out of the fight with an injury. Leben, who's now 3-0 in the UFC in 2010, said he'd like to fight Silva later this year.
"I want Wanderlei next," Leben said. "Wanderlei was supposed to have this fight. I want him next."
There was a time when Leben calling out Wanderlei Silva would have seemed like hubris -- or even foolishness. But the way Leben has fought so far in 2010, it actually sounds like a good fight. Leben is at the top of his game.
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