MMA Matchmaking: Who's Next for Jake Shields in His Return to Middleweight?
When former Strikeforce middleweight champion and EliteXC welterweight champion Jake Shields joined the UFC in late-2010, there was plenty of debate about which division he should compete in.
Ultimately, Shields chose to fight at 170 pounds, where he eventually earned a shot at UFC welterweight titleholder Georges St-Pierre.
Though he came within one round of dethroning St-Pierre on two judges' scorecards, Shields quickly fell out of the welterweight title picture due to a knockout loss against Jake Ellenberger in his following appearance.
Shields bounced back from his loss to Jake Ellenberger with a win over Yoshihiro Akiyama, but the Cesar Gracie-trained fighter recently announced that he would be returning to the middleweight division after a 2-2 run as a 170-pound fighter in the UFC.
By moving to the 185-pound division, Shields will hope to eliminate what has been a somewhat rough weight cut from his fight preparations. The change will also allow Shields to make a fresh start in a rather shallow division, meaning a quick run at another title shot is a distinct possibility.
Coming off of a notable win over Akiyama, Shields should be given a big fight for his return to the middleweight division. Of all his potential foes, two middleweights stand out as particularly intriguing opponents for Shields.
If Brian Stann can best Alessio Sakara in mid-April, a bout between Shields and the U.S. Marine would make for an interesting matchup.
The fight would immediately test Shields' ability to deal with one of the larger middleweights in the UFC, while Stann would have the chance to show improvement in his ground game against one of the most well-rounded grapplers in the sport.
Should Stann lose to Sakara, a heated rematch against Jason Miller would draw plenty of interest if "Mayhem" can defeat C.B. Dollaway in his next fight.
Shields and Miller first met in a title bout for the vacant Strikeforce middleweight title. After five rounds, Shields was awarded the decision victory and took home the belt.
Five months later, after Shields defended his title against Dan Henderson, Miller confronted Shields inside the cage and asked for a rematch. Miller's actions stirred up Shields' teammates, who attacked Miller in one of the uglier scenes in MMA history.
A rematch between Shields and "Mayhem" would reignite the rivalry between Miller and the Cesar Gracie team, which would lead to some interesting pre-fight drama for a bout that would likely launch the winner toward the top of the 185-pound division.
Sean Smith is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report MMA. For the latest insight and updates on everything MMA, Follow Sean Smith on Twitter
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