The news came courtesy of Ariel Helwani on last night’s episode of ‘UFC Tonight’ that former Strikeforce middleweight champion Jake Shields will return to the middleweight division in the UFC. Shields has fought in both welterweight and middleweight divisions in his career, but will make the move after going (2-2) inside the octagon as a welterweight.
I first hinted at the idea of Shields going back up to the middleweight division after his first round loss to Jake Ellenberger this past September. However, it took Shields fighting life and death in a win against Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 144 to finally make the decision that fighting as a middleweight was best for his career.
Shields has been ranked by many pundits in both the welterweight and middleweight divisions as he was the inaugural EliteXC welterweight champion. He beat the likes of Paul Daley, Nick Thomson, and Robbie Lawler as a welterweight in 2008-2009. He then moved up to the middleweight division to defeat the likes of Jason “Mayhem” Miller and Dan Henderson in what was a big upset win.
Shields was brought over to the UFC to challenge Georges St. Pierre for the UFC welterweight title, as many felt his wrestling and submission game would pose a huge challenge to the champion. However, Shields faced Martin Kampmann in his UFC debut as a welterweight and pulled out a controversial split decision win in a lackluster performance. It was believed that the weight cut to get back to the welterweight division and “UFC jitters” were main culprits for his performance. However, he would go on to be dominated by St. Pierre, and then get blasted by Jake Ellenberger in the first round. It should be noted that Jake Shields father passed away suddenly just weeks before that bout.
The problem for Shields has always been his striking game which is can be categorized as elementary for a fighter that has been in the game for such a long time. If he can’t take you down and work his magic as a submission specialist he often has a difficult time. It’ll be interesting to see how he matches up with the likes of Rousimar Palhares, Michael Bisping, Yushin Okami, and Mark Munoz.
Do you think Shields will find success as a middleweight?