Jake Shields is one of the most decorated fighters in the history of this sport. However, he’s done his winning outside of the hallowed walls of the UFC Octagon. That means a vast majority of casual MMA fans don’t know the depth of his talent. Here’s a little walk down memory lane, and a look ahead to what might be next.
Jake Shields began fighting professionally back in 1999 and he won his first two fights. He did suffer a hiccup in his third fight, losing Marty Armendarez and then again two fights later to Phillip Miller who had a successful MMA career that saw him fight twice in the UFC and retire with a perfect 16-0 record. Jake was sitting at 3-2 after fight fights, not the way you want to start.
At a potential crossroads, Jake went out and won 8 of his next 10 fights, including a draw with Kazuo Misaki. His losses came against the talented Ray Cooper and Akira Kikuchi who carries a 16-4 record. At that point, Jake was 11-4-1 and moving up the ladder in his career. It was 2004 and he wouldn’t lose again until Saturday night against Georges St Pierre. That’s right; he went seven years without a loss, winning multiple championships in multiple organizations.
Jake Shields has held the Shooto Middleweight championship, the Rumble on the Rock Welterweight Tournament Championship, the EliteXC Welterweight Championship and the Strikeforce Middleweight Championship. Those are the bigger titles Jake has held in his career. Jake is 32 years old, and still very much in the prime of his athletic life. Still don’t know who Jake is, let’s look at who he’s beaten, because I’m certain you’ll know some of those guys.
Toby Imada, Dave Menne, Yushin Okami, Carlos Condit, Steve Berger, Renato Verrisimo, Mike Pyle, Nick Thompson, Paul Daley, Robbie Lawler, Jason “Mayhem” Miller, Dan Henderson, and Martin Kampmann have all stepped in with Jake Shields and been on the bitter end of the fight. Jake Sheilds beat UFC Middleweight contender Yushin Okami and UFC Welterweight contender Carlos Condit in the same night!
Fifteen fights, over seven years, without a loss. He fought the preeminent fighters out there who were not under UFC contract. Jake wouldn’t duck anyone, went from division to division and never did so with audacity or trash talk. He simply took care of business. In his very brief UFC stint so far, he looked average against Martin Kampmann, and couldn’t get his gameplan going against Georges St Pierre but did succeed to damage the champion on multiple occasions.
So now you know where Jake Shields has been, now let’s take a look at where he might be going next. He has options at Welterweight and Middleweight in the UFC. Here are some potential fights for him at both weights.
Josh Koscheck – A fight with UFC veteran Josh Koscheck would be a very interesting gauge on where Jake fits in the UFC not to mention a very entertaining fight. Both guys are coming off of loses to the Champion and this would be a quick diversion back to the title shot.
Winner of Thiago Alves/Rick Story Fight - Whoever wins this fight which is set to take place on May 28th at UFC 130 would be a perfect fight for Jake Shields. The winner of this fight has to be considered for a championship fight soon. Alves/Shields could be an old fashioned Shields takedown fight while a fight with Rick Story would be an even all-out war. Who doesn’t want to see that?
Carlos Condit – This is a good fight for Shields as Condit is on the rise, and stylistically he’s a good fight for Shields. Shields has made a living out of taking strikers down and beating them. A win over Condit might not get Shields an immediate rematch with GSP, but it would be a good opportunity to showcase his skills to the UFC audience.
Nate Marquardt/Anthony Johnson winner- Another great fight for Shields to shine. Whoever wins gives Shields a marquee name to try and showcase his skills against and move back into the Welterweight Title picture.
Diego Sanchez – This would be a guaranteed war and whoever won would be bloodied and in position to contest for a title shot. This might be the most compelling fight on the list.
Of course, Shields could also make the move back to 185, a place where many feel he’s more comfortable. If he chooses to move back to Middleweight, there are no shortage of contenders for him there.
Michael Bisping – This would be a good opportunity for Shields to get some fans behind him. Anyone who fights “The Count” can ‘count’ on getting a whole new fan base. Bisping is simply not a popular guy with the fans outside of the UK and it would also be a credible debut for Shields at 185 in the UFC.
Wanderlei Silva/Chris Leben winner – This is a natural fight for Shields. Regardless of who he faces here, it’s a very high visibility fight and a chance for him to beat a legitimate star on the biggest stage. Either fight would be fun.
Demian Maia – This would be a classic grappling match and would certainly be entertaining on that level. I’m not sure a win over Maia would elevate Shields as quickly as win over some other fighters would, but it would be a classic mat war, and fans would like it.
So more or less, Jake has credentials, and options and what he does next will certainly be the most important fight of his career. Another loss in the UFC would signal the death of his championship dreams and a win over the right fighter could put him smack dab in the middle of the hunt.
Jake has all the tools needed to be a UFC champion, time will tell whether or not he utilizes them and puts the gold in the biggest organization in the world around his waist.