5 Fights for Jake Shields to Take in His Return to Middleweight
After dominating the competition in Strikeforce’s middleweight division, Jake Shields made the bold choice to drop down to welterweight for his UFC debut at UFC 121.
The move paid immediate dividends, as Shields was able to squeak past Martin Kampmann and earn himself a shot at Georges St-Pierre in just his second UFC bout, but Shields came up short against the champion and was forced to move to the back of the line of welterweight competitors.
Following a loss to rising contender Jake Ellenberger, Shields was in a must-win situation against Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 144, and he delivered a decent showing and earned a decision win.
But the fact is, Shields has never quite looked like the world-class fighter he was made out to be when he joined the UFC roster, and he seems to feel that deciding to avoid cutting the extra 15 pounds to welterweight will bring him back to the form that once had him ranked among the pound-for-pound best in the world.
With the majority of the top competitors in the middleweight division currently locked into fights, there aren’t a whole lot of options for Shields at this point, but there are a few matchups that make sense for the former Strikeforce champion to take in his return to 185.
While Ronny Markes isn’t the biggest named opponent that Shields could fight, he has been considered one of the best prospects in the middleweight division for a while now and would be a good test for Shields in his UFC 185lb debut.
Markes looked solid against Aaron Simpson at UFC on Fuel 1 back in February, and his strong take-down defense and even just the fact that he is such a large middleweight could pose some problems for Shields if this fight was to take place.
Shields would still likely enter the fight as a heavy favorite, but Markes may be able to give him a solid run for his money.
After almost a two-year break from competition to recover from a devastating knee injury, Ed Herman returned to the Octagon last year and immediately made sure fans remembered just how good he could be.
Herman went out and smashed good competitors Tim Credeur and Kyle Noke extremely quickly in his first two bouts back, and after finishing his third straight opponent in Clifford Starks at UFC 143, it’s time for “Short Fuse” to take a step up in competition.
A bout with Shields would be a very strong test for Herman, and it would also serve as a great chance to get Shields used to fighting tough guys at middleweight again, making this a great fight for both men.
Most of the time, the UFC likes to match up winners against winners and losers against losers, but right now, Yushin Okami is pretty much the only top middleweight without a fight scheduled, and Shields needs a top guy to prove himself in the division.
These two actually fought almost six years ago in the Rumble on the Rock Tournament, (the same tournament where Okami won by disqualification against current middleweight champ Anderson Silva), and Shields was able to pull out a unanimous decision victory.
This time around, these two should match up very well, and it would be interesting to see if Shields would be able to match Okami’s ground game for a second time.
Winner of Alan Belcher and Rousimar Palhares
It looks like Shields' middleweight debut will take place sometime in August according to UFC Tonight, so it would give the winner of the upcoming UFC on FOX 3 fight between Alan Belcher and Rousimar Palhares plenty of time to recover before stepping into the cage again.
Obviously, the winner would need to come out injury free in order to fight Shields, but assuming they do, this is the perfect level of competition for Shields to start out against in the division.
Both Belcher and Palhares are on impressive win streaks and are rising stars in one of the UFC’s hardest divisions to make a name for yourself due to Anderson Silva destroying everyone that’s crossed his path in the last half decade.
A win over either of these two would give Shields a lot of momentum, and if Belcher or Palhares is able to take out a former Strikeforce champion, the UFC will be able to add a new challenger on the short list of title contenders.
Winner of Brian Stann and Alessio Sakara
Brian Stann and Alessio Sakara are both known for their ability to throw and take big shots, but after getting outgrappled in their recent losses, they showed which area they need to improve in to be a top middleweight.
While the fight between these two will likely end up turning into a slugfest, the winner will need to show how much they have evolved in their next fight, and a bout against Shields, who’s one of the best grapplers in the sport, would be a great test for that.
Shields has taken some big shots from guys like Dan Henderson in his MMA career, so he’s not exactly easy to put away with strikes, but his stand up has left something to be desired, and it would be put to the test against either of these talented strikers.