October 12, 2010

Jake ShieldsJake Shields hasn’t fought in the Octagon yet, but already the stakes are rising for his UFC debut.

Shields exited Strikeforce with the promotion’s middleweight belt firmly affixed around his waist after a dominating five-round unanimous decision over Dan Henderson. He steps into the Octagon at UFC 121 next week to face fellow Top 10 fighter Martin Kampmann in a welterweight showdown. Shields’ natural weight class is at 170 pounds.

Regardless of the fight being Shields’ Octagon debut, a win would likely put him into a title scenario. At least that’s what UFC president Dana White had to say on the matter. He, as well as “The Ultimate Fighter Season 12” coaches Georges St-Pierre and Josh Koscheck, was in Montreal on Tuesday to promote St-Pierre and Koscheck’s upcoming welterweight title fight on Dec. 11 at UFC 124 at the Bell Centre.

“Jake Shields is obviously at the top of the list. If Jake Shields should win against Martin Kampmann, he probably would be next (for the winner of St-Pierre vs. Koscheck),” said White.

That may seem surprising for a UFC first-timer, but not when you consider his credentials.

Shields holds a professional record of 25-4-1 with wins over some of the biggest names in the sport, including the aforementioned Henderson, Jason “Mayhem” Miller, Robbie Lawler, Paul Daley, Nick Thompson, Mike Pyle, Carlos Condit, Yushin Okami, Dave Menne, and numerous others. He is on a 14-fight winning streak that stretches back to 2005. Hardly any other fighter in the sport can boast similar success.

One fighter who can is Jon Fitch. Fitch was widely regarded as next in line for a title shot, but he and White haven’t always seen eye to eye. He has drawn heavy criticism for a “win at all costs” style that often fails to excite fans, and his being outspoken about not wanting to fight his teammate, Josh Koscheck, doesn’t sit well with the UFC boss.

So now Shields gets a shot at leap-frogging to the front of the line… if he can defeat Kampmann, who is 4-1 since making his welterweight debut, stumbling only to Daley.

Shields and Kampmann fight in the co-main event of UFC 121 next week, headlined by a UFC heavyweight title bout between current champion Brock Lesnar and challenger Cain Velasquez.