Now that former, yes former from this point on, Strikeforce middleweight champion Jake Shields has unofficially “signed” with the UFC, there has been plenty of speculation in regards to who the 31-year-old Caesar Gracie team member will debut against in the octagon.
The depth of talent the UFC offers, employing most of the pound-for-pound and top 10 ranked fighters, is a hard selling point for any top ranked competitor outside of the organization to ignore. As healthy as promotional competition is to the sport, unless you’re an organizational champ or a select few surviving on past accomplishments, most fighters set occupational goals to enlist their services with the UFC.
Just look at Shields: he actually possessed a belt in a rival promotion and still defected over to the Zuffa enterprise. Very rarely is that situation inverted—there are very few winning fighters that have broke stride with the UFC in exchange for starring roles in smaller ponds.
Unless you’re a legend like Dan Henderson, but even then, most would agree it was a poor move on the former Pride champ’s part, along with Strikeforce as well. After attempting to strong-arm the UFC for more money during contractual disagreements, Hendo set sail for Scott Coker’s San Jose based promotion in hopes of becoming their pay-per-view poster boy and eventual champion.
Needless to say, Dan’s plan failed to pan out, thanks in large part to Shields, despite the company’s strenuous promoting efforts for Strikeforce: Nashville—to the point of overshadowing their middleweight champion.
Hendo got dethroned before he ever got a chance to wear a strap—to Coker and Co.’s dismay—by the guy that is leaving Strikeforce with that sour taste in their mouth as he ventures to greener pastures.
Now, Shields is tentatively joining the rest of Zuffa’s plump cows—chewing blades of currency—to earn his share of the greener pasture.
Whether Shields is looking for bigger paychecks, more competition, or both, he has to overcome what Henderson couldn’t—a pressure boiler of a debut in a different promotion in front of millions.
With that said, the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu expert is not only making a highly publicized entry into the UFC, he has decided to compete at welterweight instead of middleweight—in hopes of achieving a super title fight with pound-for-pound welterweight champion George St-Pierre.
Adding a fighter with Shields’ talent into the welterweight division has extraordinarily exciting consequences. This division is already fuming with possible contenders to the title without the addition of another prolific fighter.
Where do you throw an established, contender worthy, outsider like Shields in a division sporting impending bouts like St-Pierre vs. Koscheck, Fitch vs. Alves, and Hardy vs. Condit?
Those outcomes shape the 170lbs landscape in a significant way. At the end of the day, the UFC needs to put Shields in the mix somewhere, while maintaining face—they have to give him a worthy opponent right from the gate to justify the hype.
Amidst all the welterweight drama, one Danish destroyer awaits in the shadows—coming off an impressive victory over fellow contender Paulo Thiago at UFC 115—looking to be the UFC’s answer to the Shields acquisition riddle.
Kampmann vs. Shields is intriguing and works for two reasons: Kampmann needs a big name to fight and Shields needs a tough opponent who is blooming into a tough contender. This fight also compliments each fighter’s style, creating a classic striker vs. grappler match-up, while fitting perfectly into their respective time frames.
The Dane has expressed interest in the fight, being recently quoted by MMAWeekly.com:
“[Jake Shields] would definitely be a good fight as well. He's tough and he's ranked real high in the welterweight division. For good reason, I didn't expect him to beat (Dan) Henderson, he's definitely good. I'm ready for whoever. I just want to fight guys that's ranked in the top ten, top five. The higher the better.”
A win for each athlete would propel them to the title or a crash course with the winner of Fitch vs. Alves. Either way, it’s a paved path to the 170lbs gold.
Do your thing and make it rain Joe Silva!