It’s official: By defeating Paul Daley last weekend at UFC 113 Josh Koscheck will finally get his shot at the UFC Welterweight Title. The American Kickboxing Academy product will star opposite Georges St. Pierre as a coach on The Ultimate Fighter season 12, before the two meet in the Octagon in a rematch of their non-title 2007 bout, a fight that was dominated by GSP.
So what does this mean for Jake Shields? His contract with Strikeforce has not been renewed, and he was seen practically snuggling with UFC President Dana White at WEC 48 last month. It’s safe to operate under the assumption that Shields will be signing with the UFC any minute now, and when he does he’s going to want to get a shot at the title straightaway. And why shouldn’t he? He is the current Middleweight Champion of Strikeforce, where he has been fighting above his natural weight class, and he is coming off the biggest victory of his career against a bona fide legend of the sport in Dan Henderson. But with GSP locked into a television show and a subsequent fight with Koscheck, it might be awhile.
Now Shields can either fight a top flight opponent and risk losing his implied #1 contendership, fight one of the less-than-promising Welterweight prospects the UFC has to offer as a tune-up, or rest on his laurels until GSP can fit him in to his busy schedule. This last option isn’t too bad since Shields can always keep busy by creating himself in UFC Undisputed 2010 and facing GSP that way. But he’s probably going to have to wait until 2011 to get a crack at the real thing. Jake Shields likely wants to come out and make a statement against a Welterweight contender like Jon Fitch or Thiago Alves, but those two are already fighting each other in August at UFC 117. Paulo Thiago, another standout, would make a legitimately tough first UFC opponent for Shields, but again, Shields would have to play the waiting game since Thiago is facing Martin Kampmann at UFC 115 next month. Shields may end up fighting one of the many half-baked Welterweight offerings in the UFC, but that would be anti-climactic, to say the least. Enter Dan Hardy. His calendar is wide open since the cancellation of his scheduled bout against Dustin Hazelett. “McLovin” found love and called off the fight to get married in September. Hardy might be the perfect opponent for Jake Shields. He’s a Welterweight contender having just come off a title shot, and at the same time he would only pose a marginal threat. Despite showing tons of heart against GSP, Hardy was more hype than substance, and has never really been a legitimate force in the division. He, like every other British fighter ever, has no answer for solid wrestling ability, especially not the world-class type that Jake Shields possesses. On top of that, Jake Shields finishing “The Outlaw” would be huge, since GSP was unable to do so, despite dominating every minute of every round of their fight.
So what’s next for the UFC Welterweight division? While the winner of Fitch vs. Alves 2 at UFC 117 will likely be regarded as the #1 contender for the Welterweight strap, both fighters have already had their shot at St. Pierre’s belt and came up short. Koscheck was also already bested by GSP, but is next in line. Interestingly enough, he holds the distinction of winning the most UFC fights without ever receiving a title shot, and only Matt Hughes, Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, Tito Ortiz, and Georges St. Pierre himself have amassed more UFC wins than he has. There’s no question that Koscheck deserves the chance to contend for the belt, there just doesn’t seem to be a whole lot he can do with that chance. While he has definitely grown since his last meeting with GSP, he hasn’t grown enough and he hasn’t grown more than the champ has. His victory against Paul Daley was underwhelming to say the least. It was defined by the type of boring “lay and pray” wrestling that audiences have come to expect from the AKA Welterweights, a style that certainly won’t work against GSP, whose wrestling borders on flawless. To be honest, the most exciting thing about Koscheck’s match at UFC 113 was Paul Daley’s post-fight suckerpunch that cost the Brit his UFC career.
At least a title fight between St. Pierre and Shields would be something new. The sheer novelty of someone challenging GSP who hasn’t already been beaten by GSP, is enough to make that matchup exciting, even though the outcome of that fight is almost predetermined. There is nothing that Shields can do that GSP can’t do better. He has no tools in his arsenal to combat the champ’s superior wrestling, striking, and submission game. The most impressive thing about Shields is his win streak, even though his performances and the level of competition in some of those individual fights leave much to be desired. The streak includes six decision victories, and a couple of fights that Shields barely got through. But the fact still remains; Over the past four years Jake Shields has stood undefeated, racking up 14 wins across two weight classes. His most recent victory, against Dan Henderson, was his most impressive by far. In the first round he met Henderson’s storied right hand, and it nearly sent him home packing. But Shields was able to bounce back, dominating Henderson with his wrestling for the next four rounds. The fight proved Shields is a survivor with a lot of heart, toughness, and will. But he’s going to have to do a lot more than survive if he wants the UFC Welterweight Title.
Georges St. Pierre has already cleared out the entire UFC Welterweight division except for Jake Shields, which isn’t even fair to say since Shields is not technically part of the division, yet. There is nothing next for the Welterweight division. Georges St. Pierre is only 28 years old and has evolved to take almost no damage in his fights. He is the most complete Mixed Martial Artist fighting today, and he’s not going anywhere for a very long time.
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