Sources: Marquardt vs. Akiyama at 128

Updated: January 6, 2011, 2:48 PM ET
By Brett Okamoto | ESPN.com

A middleweight bout between former No. 1 contender Nate Marquardt and Yoshihiro Akiyama has been slated for UFC 128 in Newark, N.J., on March 19, according to multiple sources.

Contracts have been distributed and verbal agreements are in place from both fighters.

According to earlier reports, the UFC had wanted Akiyama to face Chael Sonnen at UFC 128. However, Sonnen was recently suspended by the organization after he pleaded guilty to money laundering in federal court earlier this week.

At UFC 128, Akiyama (13-3) will be in search of his first win in three fights. The Japanese fighter suffered back-to-back losses for the first time in his career in 2010. He was submitted by Chris Leben at UFC 116 in a consensus fight-of-the-year candidate before falling to Michael Bisping by unanimous decision three months later at UFC 120.

Marquardt (30-10-2) is also looking to right the ship after losing by unanimous decision to Yushin Okami at UFC 122 in November. A win over Okami would have placed the Denver native next in line for a shot at the 185-pound belt. The 31-year-old fighter has already fought for the belt once, losing by TKO to Anderson Silva at UFC 73 in 2007. Marquardt is 1-2 in his last three fights.

UFC 128 will take place at the Prudential Center and is headlined by a light heavyweight title fight between Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and Rashad Evans.

Brett Okamoto covers MMA for ESPN.com.