Following his defeat of Japanese superstar Yoshihiro Akiyama in his native Japan, former world champion Jake Shields has seemed to stake his place among the top fighters in the welterweight division. However, when you take a closer look at the rankings, Shields' place among the elite of the division may not be so cut and dry.
The general thought is that there are three leaders in the welterweight division: current UFC champion Georges St. Pierre, followed by current interim champ Carlos Condit and former Strikeforce champ Nick Diaz. Though the order of two and three can be argued, there seems to be two spots left in the top five up for grabs. That is where things get tricky, as there are as many as nine fighters who can legitimately make an argument that they deserve a spot in the top five.
Shields, the former Strikeforce middleweight champion, won 15 straight fights with victories over Condit, Martin Kampmann and Dan Henderson highlighting that streak. After dropping his title fight with GSP, he lost to fast-riser Jake Ellenberger via a quick KO in his next fight, though, it was just three short weeks after the passing of his manager and father, Jack Shields.
Despite being one of the best grapplers in the division, including one of the most feared submission artists in any division, he has never developed as a striker, looking awkward when striking. His work with the Diaz brothers, fighters who possess some of the best boxing in MMA, has helped, but he will always be held back by it.
Rising 170ers Jake Ellenberger and Johnny Hendriks each have signature wins to go along with a lone loss in the UFC. Perennial welterweight contenders Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck, Martin Kampmann and Thiago Alves have proved that they can beat the middle-of-the-pack fighters while being unable to repeatedly lock themselves into the top five. These are facts that Shields' resume, as of late, is sorely lacking.
Simply put, while Jake is a top 10 fighter at 170, he will continue to fall short of getting back into the top five in the division because of his striking and lack of a big welterweight win since 2008.
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