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Yoshihiro Akiyama Toughed It Out, Earned His Win at UFC 100

Like a lot of fans around the world, I was excited about the U.S. debut of Japanese mixed martial arts star Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 100. Unlike a lot of fans, I was even more impressed with Akiyama in the Octagon than I thought I'd be.

From the moment the judges' scores were announced and it was revealed that Akiyama had won a split decision over Alan Belcher, scorn has been heaped at Akiyama. UFC announcer Joe Rogan immediately declared that Belcher had been "robbed," and I heard from fans and other members of the MMA media who suggested that the UFC somehow rigged the fight because Akiyama is important to the promotion's marketing efforts in Japan and South Korea.

Sorry, but I don't buy that. I scored the fight 29-28 for Akiyama. FightMetric.com, a site that carefully tabulates everything from every fight, also scored it 29-28 for Akiyama. And CompuStrike.com, which counts up every single move a fighter makes, says Akiyama landed 21 more strikes than Belcher while getting three takedowns to Belcher's zero.

And I have a great deal of respect for the toughness that Akiyama showed. That badly swollen eye we saw Saturday night was worse than most people realized; it was revealed Monday that he suffered a fractured orbital. Plus, it turns out that after Belcher kicked Akiyama square in the groin in the first round, Akiyama didn't take all the time to recuperate that he was entitled to because he doesn't speak English and didn't realize the referee was telling him he had five minutes to recover from the illegal blow. As Akiyama said later, "this took a big toll on the exhaustion of my physical strength."

So let's give credit to Yoshihiro Akiyama: He was fighting in the United States for the first time, in the UFC for the first time, in a cage for the first time, against a tough opponent who kicked him in the jewels and broke a bone in his face, and he still hung on to win the fight. He's a welcome addition to the UFC's middleweight division.