Between November 2004 and March 2011, UFC welterweight Jake Shields fought fifteen times and came away with fifteen victories including those over Yushin Okami, Paul Daley, Robbie Lawler, Jason Miller, and Carlos Condit. Since then he’s fought twice, losing both times and gaining a new perspective on MMA as a fighter looking up from the bottom rather than down from the top.
Despite his stumbles against divisional king Georges St. Pierre and rising star Jake Ellenberger, the 32-year old isn’t looking for an easy road back to contendership and will face Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 144 in the world-class judoka’s proverbial backyard of Japan. Shields spoke some about the bout, as well as the futures of renowned teammates Gilbert Melendez and Nick Diaz, where the submission specialist admitted he was excited about the challenge provided by Akiyama’s grappling ability.
“It’s going to be my basic training camp, but I’ll probably make some small changes, try to find a couple good judo guys, which it’s a real treat if you’re fighting top-notch judo guys like Akiyama,” said the 26-6-1 Shields in an interview with MMAFightCorner. “There (are) lots of good wrestlers, jiu-jitsu guys, and standup guys, but there (are) only a few top judo guys so I have to look around for that.”
“Other than that, it’s just the same camp,” he continued. “I haven’t really put a game plan together yet. I want to go out there and come back with a big win. Coming off losses, it’s really important to get back on track, and I want to put him away. So you know, I don’t really know the game plan yet, I have to figure that out.”
With two months to go until Shields squares off against Akiyama the native Californian has spent time recently helping the accomplished cast at Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu get ready for their respective rumbles.
“(Jorge) Masvidal, I think, is a really underrated fighter and a tough matchup for Gil, so we knew it was a tough fight going in, but he went out there and did what he had to do, and brought the fight to Masvidal,” Shields began. “Personally I would’ve liked to have seen Gil (bring) him to the ground and try to finish him on the ground. I think he had a big advantage on Masvidal there, but it just turned into a striking match instead, and Gil’s hands are really coming along. His stand-up keeps getting better and better.”
As far as fellow welterweight Diaz, who fights for the interim title in February before an eventual date with St. Pierre, Shields is hoping to see his outspoken peer run the table and would consider a return to middleweight if such were to take place.
“I’d love to see Nick take that belt. And then at that point I’ll try to get through Akiyama and then probably start putting on some weight.”
Shields-Akiyama goes down on February 26 from Saitama Super Arena on a lineup headlined by Frankie Edgar defending his lightweight title against former WEC champ Ben Henderson. Other match-ups on the UFC 144 card include Quinton Jackson vs. Ryan Bader and Joe Lauzon vs. Anthony Pettis.
PHOTO CREDIT – UFC