by Ken Pishna (Reporting by Tom Hamlin) – MMAWeekly.com
Although everything appeared set for a bout between No. 4 ranked welterweight Jake Shields to return to the cage at Strikeforce’s April 11 Showtime debut against UFC veteran Joe Riggs, that bout is now off. Strikeforce executive Mike Afromowitz confirmed the change on Thursday to MMAWeekly.com.
The change was first reported by FiveOuncesOfPain.com, indicating that Shields might instead face middleweight fighter Robbie Lawle.
MMAWeekly.com later confirmed with sources close to the bout that current Strikeforce plans are to pit Shields versus Lawler – the No. 2 ranked middleweight fighter in the world – in the main event of a Strikeforce event in May in the Seattle area.
The bout was then confirmed at a Strikeforce press conference on Thursday in Hollywood, Calif. Although Lawler started his career in the welterweight class, the bout will be contested in the middleweight division. It will not be a title fight. Cung Le is the current Strikeforce middleweight champion.
Shields has stated in the past that he would welcome a jump up to fight in the middleweight division. He told MMAWeekly.com back in October that both Matt Lindland and Lawler were on his radar as far as potential 185-pound opponents that he would like to test himself against.
After his attempts to face Lindland under the Affliction banner were quashed by EliteXC, Shields ended up facing former Cage Rage champion Paul Daley on Oct. 4. His armbar submission of Daley was Shields’ most recent bout, mired in contractual matters during the demise of EliteXC and his resurrection with Strikeforce.
Lawler, also one of the fighters that has been in post-EliteXC exile, hasn’t seen action since last July, when he defeated Scott Smith by TKO in the second round.
Both Lawler and Shields were champions in the EliteXC organization. Lawler held the middleweight title, while Shields reigned as welterweight champion.
Strikeforce officials were unclear at the time of publication whether or not Riggs would remain on the April 11 fight card.