The UFC welterweight title picture figures to be incredibly dynamic with former pound-for-pound king Georges St-Pierre heading off into the sunset. A growing list of challengers are already preparing themselves for a shot at the title, but one man believes all of them need to jump into line behind him.

That man is former Strikeforce champion Jake Shields. Speaking with MMAJunkie Radio, Shields basically discredited every challenger outside of Rory MacDonald, blasting their claims of challenging for the title.

Shields said that Condit doesn’t have a case if he can defeat Tyron Woodley, because Shields already owns a victory—in 2006—over “The Natural Born Killer.” The same goes for Woodley, whom Shields bested at UFC 161. (In all of his analysis of fellow contenders, however, Shields failed to mention Matt Brown, who is on the cusp of a seventh straight victory in the division, or Dong Hyun Kim, who has won four straight in the Octagon, with the last two ending in highlight-reel knockouts.)

Of course, none of Shields’ verbal posturing means anything if he can’t get past Hector Lombard at UFC 171. Lombard is a former Olympian in judo and has been notoriously difficult to take down in his MMA career. He also has one-punch knockout power. For Shields to win, he’ll have to be relentless with his takedown game.

It shouldn’t be that hard for Shields to use a game plan that involves grappling, which is what his fighting game focuses on after all. But that strategy has put Shields in the predicament that he’s in—a top-10 ranking, but with no hope for a title shot.

Let’s start by examining Shields’ own credentials and that of his opponent at UFC 171.

Lombard sports a meager .500 record with losses to Yushin Okami and Tim Boetsch combined with knockout wins over Rousimar Palhares and Nate Marquardt. Lombard has only fought once at welterweight, and it remains to be seen if he can sustain any success in the new division. His battle with Marquardt didn’t really tell us anything about Lombard that we didn’t already know.

Looking at Shields’ resume, it’s difficult to say he warrants a title shot should he defeat Lombard. Since being completely outclassed by St-Pierre back in 2011 at UFC 129, Shields has gone a respectable 3-1 with one no-contest (His fight with Ed Herman was originally a win, but was overturned after Shields failed a post-fight drug test). Although Shields’ record is respectable, it’s nowhere near impressive. His fights with Woodley and Herman could’ve cured someone suffering from insomnia, and his recent win over Demian Maia wasn’t exactly a clear-cut victory.

There’s also some “outside the cage” factors that bring up some red flags for the UFC brass. There’s the aforementioned drug test failure, which caused Shields to be suspended and fined. Putting a guy who has a history, albeit very brief, with failing drug tests into a championship bout can be a risky business (just ask Vitor Belfort). Shields also is a member of the Skrap Pack, a group which has been notoriously difficult to deal with for UFC President Dana White and company. The Skrap Pack’s Gilbert Melendez was able to broker a hefty jump in pay thanks to his free-agent dealings, Nate Diaz recently asked for his release, and Nick Diaz has to have caused a few stress-induced breakdowns for the UFC crew with his antics while competing in the Octagon.

We’ve seen guys like Okami and Jon Fitch get the pink slip in shocking fashion, and Shields could find himself in that situation if he loses to Lombard. Shields hasn’t improved to the point where anyone believes he can challenge for a title. Judging from initial reaction to Shields’ comments, it’s also not something fans would be willing to tune in to see, either.

Shields finds himself in the same place as Okami and Fitch, in that he’s a high-caliber fighter, but not a popular choice for fans to see in high-profile match-ups. His fighting style is effective, without a doubt, but it’s not going to fill an arena. Shields hasn’t finished a fight since his bout against Robbie Lawler in 2009, and he has routinely drawn the ire of fans who’ve watched him compete.

We recently heard Kim, one of those contenders Shields so conveniently overlooked when touting his own worthiness for a title bid, explain that he changed his fighting style to garner more attention for a title shot because he realized in today’s UFC, winning simply isn’t enough. Shields hasn’t seemed to grasp that concept yet. Until he does, the UFC won’t consider putting Shields in another welterweight title fight.

About The Author

Kyle Symes
Staff Writer

Kyle is a recent graduate of Aurora University, where he obtained a Bachelor's in Communications. Kyle resides in Illinois, just outside of Chicago. He played baseball and football in both high school and college, but is now focusing on an amateur MMA career.

  • xdariusx

    Shields absolutely has the best claim to a title shot if he beats Lombard. Wins over Woodley, Maia, and Lombard is a better resume than anyone other challenger at WW. That’s two top-10 guys (and #12). Condit just lost to Hendricks, Rory just lost to Lawler. And Kim? Are you serious? He hasn’t beaten a single top-10 opponent. Neither has Brown.

  • Water Buffalo

    Well thought out article. Shields has beat all the guys in line ahead of him; Lawler, Condit and Woodley. It makes sense that he be next in line for a title shot, in a “fair” playing field, but first there is Hector Lombard Saturday. Hector clearly defeated Boetch, and he nearly KO Okami in the third_ “nearly” does not make it to second base.

    IMO Lombard will KO Shields in round 1, and will probably need another fight before fighting for the belt and wining. I think that Hector Lombard though not recognized as such yet, is the true # 1 contender and biggest threat in the welter weight race.