Being consistent in mixed martial arts is one of the most difficult tasks a fighter can accomplish, and Jake Shields has been as consistent as they come.
Over the course of his 14-year career the San Francisco-based fighter has claimed a multitude of championships from organizations around the sport and lined his resume with wins over a collection of elite-level competition. Furthermore, throughout the last 10 years, the Team Cesar Gracie fighter has only come out on the losing end of two bouts, one of which came at the hands of former welterweight king Georges St-Pierre.
With a track record as impressive as the one Shields owns, praise and accolades would seem to come in abundance, but this just isn't the case. Where he once defeated Carlos Condit and Yushin Okami in the same night and proceeded to rattle off eight consecutive victories by way of finish, his time of under the UFC banner has failed to provide the type of spark his previous efforts once generated.
While fans fall in love with highlight reel finishes, the simple truth of the matter is that Shields is ultimately getting the job done in whatever fashion he has to. That said, he understands that styles and dynamic finishes boost a fighter's profile in the MMA game, but winning is what matters. One-punch knockouts and slick submissions will certainly earn the favor of an action-hungry fanbase, but winning every step of the way is what makes a fighter a champion. And once again...that is what Shields is chasing.
"I think the fact I've lost two fights over a long stretch of time definitely gets lost on people," Shields told Bleacher Report. "I'm not an easy guy to beat and a tough guy to deal with. I've beaten some very tough guys and I plan on going out and doing it again on Saturday night.
"A win over Lombard definitely puts me right there for a title shot, especially if I can go out and finish him. That should definitely put me in line for the title or at least the No. 1 contender."
The 35-year-old has his sights set on earning UFC gold—one of the few major titles that has eluded him—and he's willing to do whatever it takes to get there. The next major step on his quest for the throne will come on Saturday night when he faces off with Cuban powerhouse Hector Lombard at UFC 171 in Dallas.
The former Olympic judoka has a vicious style and has the potential to end a fight in abrupt and violent fashion. While Shields is aware of the dangers the former Bellator champion will bring into the cage, he's had great success against some of the heaviest hitters to ever step inside the cage.
In addition to Lombard's striking, the American Top Team fighter also has world-class judo credentials. With Shields bringing his personal brand of American jiu-jitsu into the Octagon, the tussle between the two highly ranked welterweights could get interesting on several levels.
"Judo traditionally is all big throws and tosses, which Lombard is great at," Shields explained. "He's been fighting so long his wrestling has come around as well. He has a good double leg and a good sprawl so he's not just a pure judo guy anymore. AJJ is my mix of American wrestling style and Brazilian jiu-jitsu that is a hybrid for MMA. It's definitely going to be an interesting clash of styles, but as far as the ground goes, I'm a lot better than Lombard.
"He definitely has a lot of power and his power is legit," he added. "But I've fought guys in the past like [Dan] Henderson and [Robbie] Lawler so it's not the first time I've done this. But again, he's a dangerous guy and I had to watch some tapes and make some small changes. But I've fought guys like him before and I'll be ready."
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.