Despite legal troubles looming overhead, Chael Sonnen will look to forget about all that when he steps back into the Octagon at UFC 128 where he will face Yoshihiro Akiyama as part of the promotion’s return to New Jersey.
The fight was confirmed to MMAWeekly.com by sources close to the match-up. MMAJunkie.com initially reported the booking.
Sonnen (25-11-1) has had a rough past few months. First he was narrowly defeated by UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva in August 2010, missing out on his shot to take home 185lb title. Following the loss, Sonnen was popped by the California State Athletic Commission for elevated levels of testosterone.
Sonnen was able to get a reduced six month sentence from the commission and he will be eligible to re-apply for a license as of March 3. That would seemingly be enough, but then on late Monday evening the news broke that Sonnen had plead guilty in Federal Court for money laundering.
While the penalty can carry jail time, Sonnen is expected to pay a fine, be stripped of his real estate license and probation for 2 years. The Oregon native will look to put all of his past transgressions behind him when he steps back into the cage in March.
Looking for a redemption of his own, however completely fight related, will be former K-1 star Yoshihiro Akiyama (13-3) who returns to action after a loss to Michael Bisping in October. Overall the man known as “Sexyama” has only relied on his good looks of late because his fight skills have been lacking.
Akiyama has gone just 1-2 since being signed by the UFC, and his one win over Alan Belcher was a fairly controversial decision. He will be able to forget much of his past performances if he can get past Sonnen in March.
The middleweights will face off as part of the UFC 128 card in New Jersey, headlined by light heavyweight champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua defending his belt against Rashad Evans.