Shields is returning to middleweight after a largely unsuccessful run at welterweight. He hopes to reinvent his consistent winning ways at middleweight and intends to fight Anderson Silva as soon as possible.
While it's true that Jake Shields has not had an impressive UFC run thus far, it should be noted that Shields was never a welterweight competitor before joining the UFC. He was always a middleweight.
And when he was a middleweight, he was a force to be reckoned with.
Starting in late 2004, Shields went on an undefeated streak that extended 15 fights, up until he fought GSP for the UFC welterweight title.
And he was not fighting solely cupcakes in this time. He fought and bested many capable opponents. Mike Pyle, Robbie Lawler, Jason Miller and Paul Daley are respectable opponents he defeated.
In addition to the many respectable opponents he defeated, he also defeated elite opponents. In particular, he secured wins over Yushin Okami, Carlos Condit and Dan Henderson in this time period.
And he beat them all with his incredible Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He uses solid wrestling to bring his opponents to the mat, where he utilizes a brilliant top game to secure dominant positions over his opponents and forces many of them to tap out.
In terms of styles, Jake Shields is absolutely one of the biggest threats to Silva. A solid wrestler who is remarkably difficult to knock out with a high-level jiu-jitsu game. In terms of grappling, Shields is a less impressive wrestler but more impressive BJJ artist than rising middleweight star Chris Weidman.
Unfortunately for Shields, while he may have the style to beat Silva, he does not have the skill.
Shields boasts 10 submission wins in 27 fights, but very few of those have come skilled grapplers. Shields' strength is primarily in his control rather than in his submissions. Giving Silva 25 minutes to work his magic is not a winning strategy.
Shields has unimpressive standup. I would not describe it as being bad, but I certainly wouldn't call it good. While the solution to beating Silva obviously isn't to strike with him, more striking-competent fighters are more likely to survive long enough to implement other plans.
The striking difference is going to be made obviously apparent since Shields isn't skilled enough to take Silva down.
The days of Silva being taken down by average takedown artists have passed. Silva would not allow Chael Sonnen, the most effective wrestler in the division, to take him down after the opening stanza of the fight. And any fighter who could successfully stop three of four takedowns from Sonnen can certainly stop any number of takedowns from Shields
Shields does not have the grappling ability to submit Silva in an MMA match, doesn't have the wrestling to take him down and doesn't have the striking to hang with him for more than two rounds.
Shields is a legitimate middleweight. His accolades outside the UFC and victories against current UFC stars prove that.
Unfortunately, against Silva, Shields is just another hopelessly outmatched challenger.
Edit: I ended up completely confusing Shields' history with respect to what weight classes he fought at. My statement that all of Shields' successes have been at middleweight is entirely wrong.
He did fight at welterweight earlier in his career, and had several matches at 175 pounds and catchweight. Aforementioned wins over Daley and Pyle were at 170 pounds. His wins over Condit and Okami came at 175 pounds. He beat Lawler at 182 pounds, and beat Miller and Dan Henderson at 185 pounds.
It was a factual error on my part that could have been fixed by looking at Shields' record at any point during the writing of this article. It was lazy writing on my part and I apologize.