Over the past several months, many MMA fans have speculated on Georges St-Pierre’s future if he successfully defends his title at UFC 129. Should he stay at 170, or move up to middleweight for a superfight with Anderson Silva?
These fans are overlooking one thing, though—and that is Jake Shields.
Shields is an elite-level fighter who has held titles in four different organisations and two different weight classes. Although he has only had one fight in the UFC, he has faced the likes of Dan Henderson, Jason Miller, Paul Daley, Robbie Lawler, Carlos Condit and Yushin Okami.
None have been able to best him, and those are some quality fighters.
GSP will start a heavy favourite, with good reason. He has taken all before him since recapturing the belt and has looked untouchable whilst doing so. No one has even looked like beating him in four years.
But Shields is quite possibly the biggest danger he has faced in that time.
Shields is a BJJ black belt and collegiate wrestler who has some of the sickest submissions in the business. If he can get the fight to the ground, then it will only take one mistake from the champion, and GSP's reign could be over in an instant.
Most people will counter this argument by saying that St-Pierre’s takedown defence and stand-up are of a high enough quality that he will be able to keep the fight standing, where he will have a significant advantage.
Those people are right. GSP has a takedown defence of 86 percent, and Shields' striking game is not in the same class as his grappling. The stats, as well as St-Pierre’s recent performances, suggest that this will be a routine title defence for the champ.
But there’s a hunger about Shields that St-Pierre’s previous opponents simply have not had. He has been waiting for years for a chance to face GSP. Every fight he has had in recent years has just been a steppingstone on the way to his shot at the world champ. He knows he may well not get another opportunity to fight St-Pierre, and he has a steely determination about him that makes him impossible to rule out.
He will need to find a way to get this fight to the ground, either via takedown or forcing St-Pierre to take him down by matching him in the stand-up.
This is much easier said than done, but in the biggest fight of his career Shields might just be able to find a moment of inspiration and get the fight to the floor. If he can do that, then he has a massive chance to get the submission that he needs to take the belt home.
His ability to win the fight lies in his submissions, which are good enough to finish a fighter of GSP’s calibre.
Don’t get me wrong. I do think that GSP is more likely to win the fight. But until he finishes the fight or the fifth round ends, Shields won’t be without a chance. This is the biggest moment of his career; he intends to make the most of it, and he might just be ready to shock the world.