Georges St-Pierre has stated that Jake Shields will be his stiffest test to date.
Shields left Strikeforce as their middleweight champion. He has not lost a fight since December 2004.
Since that loss, he has won 15 straight fights by defeating the likes of Robbie Lawler, Dan Henderson, Carlos Condit, and Jason Miller.
Now Shields will be facing his toughest test to date when he squares off against St-Pierre at UFC 129 this Saturday night.
St-Pierre has only suffered one loss since January 2005. He has beaten the best the UFC has had the best to offer. He has made solid fighters like B.J. Penn, Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck, and Sean Sherk look like they didn't belong in the Octagon with him.
On paper, Shields may have what it takes to defeat the greatest middleweight to ever step foot in the Octagon.
Yet, there are questions that surround this fight that we will all have to wait until Saturday—and in some instances even later—to be answered.
Shields' debut performance at welterweight in the UFC was, to be as kind as possible, pathetic.
Shields is so skilled that he should have had no problems with an opponent the caliber of Martin Kampmann.
But around the midway point of the fight, Shields looked as if his gas tank was completely empty.
As great as he looked against Dan Henderson, he should have disposed of Kampmann with relative ease. Yet Kampmann was able to withstand the early storm, and had the chance to finish Shields late in the fight.
If Shields comes in to the fight against St-Pierre in the same shape he was in against Kampmann, it will be a long—or possibly a short—night for Shields.
After his loss to Matt Hughes at UFC 50, St-Pierre became a one man wrecking crew.
He became the first person to stop Sean Sherk, and defeated Frank Trigg, Jason Miller, and B.J. Penn before he defeated Matt Hughes at UFC 65 to win the welterweight title.
After he lost—then eventually regained—the title against Matt Serra, St-Pierre has fought in a "safety first" mode.
With a potential showdown with Anderson Silva looking more likely, will he fight with the fire he used to have to make the super fight even more enticing to not only the fans, but the Zuffa brass as well?
Jake Shield's Octagon debut was the first time he had fought at 170 in two years.
On the other hand, St-Pierre has spent his entire UFC career at welterweight.
Over his past few fights, St-Pierre has became noticeably larger. Everyone can see that he has been packing on more muscle.
In Georges' last fight against Josh Koscheck, it was said that he cut to 170 from a little north of 190 lbs.
Even though Shields has been the naturally larger man over the past few years, will St-Pierre's added bulk even out the size factor?
There is little doubt that Georges is near the top of the list when it comes to the best wrestlers in MMA.
While he lacks the wrestling background of the likes of Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck, Matt Hughes, and Frank Trigg, he has proved time and time again that he has an effective MMA wrestling skill set.
It is also worth noting that St-Pierre has not been submitted since his loss to Matt Hughes at UFC 50.
Out of his 26 career victories, Shields—the Cesar Gracie black belt—has won 10 by submission and 13 by decision. While he is more of a grinder, he still has the ability to pull of some impressive submissions
Which style will prevail?
Based on his most recent performance, St-Pierre has shown massive improvements in his striking. This can easily be attributed to his training with legendary boxing trainer Freddie Roach.
In his second fight against Josh Koscheck, Georges showed that he could effectively use his hands to keep his opponent at by while dishing out some punishment.
Shields is no slouch when it comes to banging it out on the feet. He surprised Robbie Lawler by standing with him until he secured the fight ending guillotine choke.
When you get two superb grapplers in the cage, sometimes it ends up being a stand up war. If this is the case, who will prevail as the better striker?
If St-Pierre successfully defends his title, the UFC will have a difficult time justifying anyone in the welterweight division as a worthy opponent.
While the division is full of some great up-and-coming talent, none of them are ready to face a fighter of St-Pierre's caliber.
If he does stay at welterweight, he could continue to feast on lesser opposition.
But would it make more sense for him to move up in weight so that the welterweight division could become competitive?
In recent interviews, Shields has stated that after his fight this Saturday, he will more than likely make the move back to the middleweight division.
Is this a sign that he is having problems making 170? Or could he be playing mind games with St-Pierre?
When St-Pierre lost his title to Matt Serra, he admitted that he wasn't looking at him as a serious threat, and slacked off during his training camp.
Could Shields be saying this in hopes that history repeats itself?
Should he win, it would be difficult to see him actually make the move to middleweight. Not only would he be the man who defeated the No. 1 or 2 pound-for-pound fighter in the sport, there would be a long line of challengers waiting for their shot at the title.
These fights would surely be more competitive than any welterweight title fight we have seen in recent history.