by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
One of the most anticipated events of the recent months has been the Rumble on the Rock 175lb tournament. Originally scheduled for November, the event has been pushed back to this coming January 20th. Among those competing in tournament is Jake Shields, a former Shooto Middleweight Champion and top ranked submission grappler.

Over this past weekend Shields officially signed on the dotted line and from all indications, he’ll be facing a fellow former Middleweight Champion.

“Well it got pushed back twice, first it was supposed to be November 19th, then December 2nd, so I had been training for that. Then it was pushed back to January 20th, but it sounds like that’s official now, contracts are finally out, so I’m picking my training back up again,” said Shields to MMA Weekly. “I’ve got Dave Menne in the first round from what I hear.”

When it comes to whether or not Shields chose Menne or if it was the luck of the draw, Jake said, “I think it’s more the draw, I don’t really care, I want to fight all those guys, so it really doesn’t matter. Cesar asked me if I ever thought about Dave Menne, I said it sounded good, I’m not sure 100%, but that’s who Cesar said.”

In previous interviews Shields had commented about some of the competition slated to be in the tournament, in particular Frank Trigg. When asked if he was disappointed that he wasn’t going to be facing Trigg in the first round, Shields replied, “Yeah a little bit obviously, I definitely want some of Trigg, but that fight’s bound to happen at some point. Hopefully there’s a good chance it will happen in the tournament.”

With the tournament being postponed until January, Shields recently took a bout on short notice to keep himself active and won in decisive fashion. “I just fought last Monday on a small little show (Kage Kombat). They called me and asked if I’d do it and it was a quick little fight, wasn’t too hard for me. It turned out pretty good, the rounds were only two minutes long, it was against Toby Imada, whose pretty good and has had like 30 fights or something. I was able every round to take him down and almost finish him, but because of the two-minute rounds, they’d end before I could finish him so he was able to survive because of the rounds. I took a unanimous decision because every round ended with me in mount, but the guy kept surviving, he’s a tough guy.”

Shields knows however that Menne is a step up in competition, both skill-wise and physically. Menne, the first ever UFC Champion at 185lbs will be cutting down in weight to make the tournament’s limit, whereas Shields, a Shooto Champion at 167.5lbs will be making move up in weight to compete.

Jake commented on the kind of strategy he may employ when it comes to facing the naturally larger and lankier Menne, “He’ll probably try to stand with me. He works a lot of stand up from what I’ve seen, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen him fight, so I’m not really sure, so I’ll try to stand with him and then take him down and submit him. It really depends, we’re about the same height, so it may be a problem striking, but the longer arms makes it easier for me to get an arm bar or something on him.”

Shields continued, “I think my submissions are better and I think I can stand with him too. He’s been knocked out a couple of times so I might be able to knock him out.”

For a while not it has seemed only a matter of time before Shields would make his debut on the biggest stages of MMA, but for one reason or another it hasn’t happened yet. With a good performance in this tournament Jake knows that organizations will be hard pressed to keep him out.

“With the level of guys that are going to be in the tournament I think it’d be hard for the other organizations to keep me out because I definitely plan on winning it,” explained Jake. “I just want to fight the top people. Hopefully I’ll still be able to fight BJ (Penn), but if not, Pride, the UFC, I just want to fight the top guys. I’d definitely like to fight Diego (Sanchez), he beat my teammate (Nick Diaz) so I’d definitely like to get in there against him and get some revenge.”

After having taken most of 2005 to prepare for the Abu Dhabi World Submission Championships and to focus on teaching at the Fairtex San Francisco gym, Shields hopes to make 2006 a banner comeback year for himself in MMA. “It’s going to be a big year for me, I have a few other things I’m working on too. Right now I’m just training and getting ready for it. I’m excited to get out there and fight again, it sounds like this is going to happen this time, I sure hope so.”