Shields sees more than an opponent going into their title fight, which is still in negotiations. The 185-pound champion views Henderson as something to marvel at with the admiration and respect deserving of the former two-division PrideFC champion.
"I think he’s a phenomenal opponent…he's one of my favorite fighters of all-time," Shields said to me in Los Angeles this past weekend. "He's a legend in the sport so it's something I really hope comes together."
It appears Jake Shields will have one of his most desired battles come to fruition once Strikeforce is able to write up the appropriate contracts for both fighters and their respected camps. "There are a couple tiny things that need to be worked out," Shields said when asked if both he and Henderson have verbally agreed to the bout.
Admirable as he is of his pending opponent, Shields enters the anticipated title fight as an underdog against the man who nearly put Michael Bisping in a coma at UFC 100 last July.
The title of "underdog" is likely not the concern of Shields. The San Francisco native appeared confident when talking about the fight and is even a bit critical of his opponent's technique. "I think he’s a little wild at times…makes a few mistakes," said Shields.
The submission wizard feels there are holes in Henderson's game and plans to exploit them. "There are a few weaknesses in his jiu-jitsu," said Shields, "so obviously, that's my strongest point…I'll try to exploit him there."
Shields does not plan on holding back any offense against the decorated wrestler in Henderson. When asked of his style of jiu-jitsu, Shields explained how it is not one where he waits for something to happen, but rather one that forces the issue.
"I try to force the submission instead of just waiting of the guy to make a mistake. When you have a shorter round you don’t have time to wait."
Let's not be mistaken, Dan Henderson is not the type of fighter who would sit and wait for something to happen, either. A powerful right hand awaits ignition to fly through the atmosphere and land on his opponent's jaw, causing chaos on catastrophic levels.
Shields will find it in his better interest to take this to the canvas of the cage and prevent any type of stand up.
Criticized for a lack of striking technique, Shields has finished a great deal of his opponents by submission due to his incredible ability to takedown his opposition and neutralize their striking. With only three TKOs to his credit, it is very unlikely that Shields will attempt to trade shots with the heavy-handed Henderson.
Going into his fight with Jason "Mayhem" Miller , Shields was considered the weaker of the two on the feet. Utilizing his strong wrestling and jiu-jitsu, Miller was controlled by Shields and barely able to get in a strike, edge-wise. Ultimately, Shields was determined to be the victor after a five-round affair and claimed the vacant Strikeforce middleweight belt.
Many within the MMA community were displeased with the outcome of the Shields-Miller fight due to the "dragged-out" style used by Shields to control his opponent.
What many fail to realize is that in MMA, fighters have their strong points and weak points. Jake Shields is an intelligent fighter who can realize this of his opponent and capitalize on what he sees as an opening.
Being the sportsman that he is, Shields is not totally turned off to a potential rematch with "Mayhem."
"I would if that's what people wanted to see," said Shields of a Miller rematch, "I'd like to see him win a couple fights first. I'm OK with rematches but I'm not a big fan of rematches right away unless there is a reason for them."
Shields-Miller does not exactly have the same controversy of Machida-Shogun. Shields sees no reason for a rematch with Miller, whereas with Machida and Shogun he says, "There was a reason for it."
Before anyone can try to put some sort of purpose behind Shields-Miller II, fans will get their chance to watch Shields-Henderson in an epic battle of between two MMA veterans.
For all the accolades and accomplishments Dan Henderson has collected over the past 13 years, little attention is given to Jake Shields and what he has been able to overcome throughout his career.
Not many realize that Shields has not lost a fight in over six years and is the winner of 13 straight. Regardless of how he has finished fights and opinions of his stand-up, Jake Shields has gotten the job done, even in the most lopsided of affairs.
Henderson will have no easy task once the two tangle later this year.