The veteran stepped up and took down Demian Maia, the No. 4-ranked welterweight in the division.
The question now is, what's next?
Shields' performances sent him into the middle of the pack after losing back-to-back fights against Georges St-Pierre and Jake Ellenberger. He moved back to middleweight for two fights, but decided to move back to 170 in June 2013.
There is no question that exciting fighters move up the ranks more quickly and garner more fan support, but there can be no denying Shields' record. The aforementioned two losses were the only losses in the past eight years for Shields, and his level of competition has been higher than most.
Who has he beaten in that span? Yushin Okami, Carlos Condit, Mike Pyle, Paul Daley, Robbie Lawler, Dan Henderson and Martin Kampmann. There are several other tough, crafty veterans on that list as well. Shields has earned another premier bout for his next fight.
With a win over Maia, Sheilds will jump back in to the Top 10.
However, most of the division's elite are already booked. Shields may have to wait for the UFC 167 fallout before getting his next opponent. It could be a blessing in disguise.
Depending on how the title picture shakes out in November, Shields could slip into a key fight in the division.
The fight with Maia showed just that.
Maia tore through the division. He out-grappled the likes of Rick Story and Jon Fitch as he went up the welterweight ladder. He was not able to do the same to Shields. It was the American who often found top position throughout the fight, and he also reversed position several times.
It was a grind for 25 minutes. A grind that Shields won.
His habit of dragging opponents into an ugly fight is not endearing, but it shows Shields' ability to mask his deficiencies. If he can win another fight against an upper-echelon fighter, Shields will be right back in the title mix.
He's earned that right.
Shields may not be the most exciting fighter in the division. He may not even be the most technically skilled.
Yet he wins. A lot.
That counts in the long run. He is without question one of the top 10 welterweights in the world, and he deserves a fight against another ranked opponent.
Shields may be one of the most underrated fighters in MMA history. His record speaks for itself, and the win over Maia meant a lot for his lasting legacy. It was just another elite fighter on Shields' long resume.