Five "First Fights" For Jake Shields In The UFC And Why They Make Sense
Everyone knows. Everyone saw it coming.
Jake Shields next fight in the cage will be under the Zuffa banner as a member of the MMA super-titan known as the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
A lesser-anticipated, yet still predicted sub-story stemming from this bit of news is that the former Strikeforce Middleweight Champion and Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu standout will be in the Octagon at 170 pounds.
The welterweight pool just got deeper, boys and girls.
For those who may not know, Jake Shields had won the Strikeforce Middleweight belt at Strikeforce's "Fedor Vs. Rogers" event — the event which would, unbeknownst to all but a few of us (myself excluded), mark the 28th and final victory in a long winning streak following the debatable first loss of Fedor Emelianenko's career.
After an incident in Nashville folowing Shields' first defense against Dan Henderson, Shields was fined and suspended for three months.
Last month, Strikeforce released Shields during a contract renegotiation period, which saw current Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez leave his take on his teammate's choice to leave for the UFC.
Now, Shields is in the UFC in one of it's most dangerous divisions.
The question now is, who will he face first?
Perhaps GSP or Josh Koscheck, but their title affair hasn't been set up as yet.
So who does that leave?
Five hard-to-the-core welterweights that can and will give Jake nothing less than hell in the cage.
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages...
Yours truly would like to present those five gentlemen.
The way I see it, Swick would present the same problems as Dan Henderson did with his wrestling and his kickboxing, but unlike Hendo, Swick has picked up some BJJ along the way as well.
I'd look at this fight the same way I looked at Shields' fight with Henderson: Shields can knock out Swick in a fight like this, but he doesn't want it on the feet.
He's only won three fights by something aside from a decision or a submission.
Swick can and probably will take it to the ground, but that may be an area where Shields would want the fight to go.
Why Shields Vs. Swick makes sense: Because Swick's still one of the UFC's toughest, and the UFC's toughest is who Jake needs to face before he can get any gold.
Condit could provide Shields with trouble in the same areas where Shields can present trouble: the takedowns and the ground.
I see Condit as a well-rounded guy who can take control of the fight in any position, whether he stands and he bangs or tries to grapple with Shields.
The way I see it, this could be a submission clinic, but again, that's only if Shields makes it so.
Why Shields Vs. Condit makes sense: Condit would serve as a test to see how Shields handles himself against the last WEC Welterweight Champion. Shields is a former Middleweight kingpin, and has beaten Condit before in a Rumble On The Rock welterweight bout.
If he wants the belt, a second win against Condit could bring Shields closer to the belt, but it won't be easy.
It's been a long time since Rumble On The Rock, and Condit's a different fighter now.
You can view the first fight between Shields and Condit here.
Another top-card welterweight that can give Shields trouble on the feet and on the ground, Kampmann actually showed skills in the latter against Paulo Thiago at UFC 115.
He took Thiago down and he controlled him for three rounds, giving Thiago little opportunity to do much significant damage.
What could he do against Shields? He could possibly show more of that improving ground game.
Why Shields Vs. Kampmann makes sense: If for no reason relevant to the title picture, this fight could be a chance to see improvement in both men. Their styles are changing and their game plans are getting tougher to figure out than many of us would like to believe. Maybe Shields wins on the feet or maybe the fight breaks even on the ground.
It's easy to speculate on what could happen, but we won't know what will happen until it unfolds before us.
Joe Schafer has a more in-depth take on Kampmann Vs. Shields and why it makes sense, which you may enjoy reading here.
The winner of Fitch-Alves II
Shields will either be at a disadvantage or at an advantage in a fight against the winner of the UFC 117 rematch between Jon Fitch and Thiago Alves.
I look at this one two ways:
- Shields faces a straight up wrestler in Fitch — a guy that will not hesitate to take Shields to the ground, but also a guy who has his own methods of handling people on the ground. Even a guy like Shields who usually wants it on the ground could have himself a hell of a time against a fighter who is known for neutralizing his oppoenents on the ground.
- Shields faces a Brazilian Muay Thai specialist and one of the best strikers at welterweight in Thiago "Pitbull" Alves. The BJJ Purple Belt and American Top Team sensation doesn't take many of his fights to the ground, and he's a heavy welterweight so unless Jake has a good amount of strength, he'll have a hard time taking Alves to the ground.
Why Shields facing the winner of the Fitch-Alves rematch makes sense: Simply put, contendership status. To be a contender, you have to beat someone in the upper echelon of the division, and both Fitch and Alves are in that echelon. If Shields wants the belt, he has to go through two past victims of GSP — one of which who's a teammate of Koscheck and one of which who has beaten Koscheck by decision — to get it.
The UFC Welterweight Champion
Here's something open to debate: What if Jake Shields jumped to the front of the line for a shot at the champ?
We know Koscheck and St-Pierre have some of the best wrestling in the sport, we know they have knocked out opponents or gotten TKO stoppages in the past, and we know they have submitted people.
What we don't know, besides who will walk out with the belt, is what they will do against a Cesar Gracie Jiu Jitsu fighter the caliber of Shield.
Makes you wonder, doesn't it?
Why an immediate title shot for Shields makes sense: Shields has a strong record and has beaten some top people in his career. Gilbert Melendez said that Jake basically cleared out Strikeforce and he could clear out the UFC.
Jake could do it if he beats the Welterweight Champion, regardless of whether it's Kos or "Rush" that he has to contend with in the cage.
So Bleacherholics, the floor's open once again for discussion.
Who do you think should get Shields first, and why?
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