At UFC 129 on April 30, the world's largest fight promotion will host its biggest pay-per-view show to date when it invades the Rogers Centre for "St. Pierre vs. Shields" in Toronto, Canada.
Fans, a whopping 55,000 thousands of them, are expected to show up en masse to cheer their favorite MMA stars. And while the event headliners are men who've walked very different paths, only one seems to be getting the respect he deserves.
The reigning and defending UFC welterweight champion, Georges St.Pierre, will put his legacy and 170-pound title on the line in what could be the final welterweight defense of his storied career.
He's basically cleaned out the entire division.
A talented wrestler who holds the ability to strike with almost anyone in the UFC, St. Pierre has been labeled a "lay n pray fighter" as of late. He has four of his last five title defenses going the full five rounds and he was unable to finish Koscheck, Hardy, Alves and Fitch.
He uses masterful gameplans to stop his opponents, but may be too trigger-shy since Matt Serra stopped him way back at UFC 69. Anyway you look at it, the fact remains that Georges St. Pierre may be the greatest welterweight we've ever seen.
But that could all change on April 30 when he takes on the unheralded underdog, Jake Shields.
The challenger is a former champion in every organization he's competed in including Strikeforce, Elite XC and Rumble on the Rock. Considered undersized at middleweight, he still amassed victories over Dan Henderson, Robbie Lawler, Jason Miller, Paul Daley, Carlos Condit, Yushin Okami and Martin Kampmann
Even with such a respectable resume, Shields gets labeled as boring and "good but not great." He holds 13 decision wins, also giving him the moniker of 'lay n pray' fighter, giving the haters more fuel to add to their fires.
What else does Jake Shields need to do before he is considered one of the best fighters in the world? Will a win in Toronto make him a "name" like Matt Hughes and GSP?
The California-native is not your typical MMA fighter by any means. He doesn't hold the most impressive muscle-bound body and he doesn't even eat meat. He was home-schooled until his junior year of high school and didn't have the most lavish life. He was a standout wrestler who loved being active.
While most kids in high school were out partying, Shields would wrestle.
Shields has basically done one thing and that's "win." He was "winning" before Charlie Sheen made it a catchphrase. He's done nothing but get better with time and beat the all the top contenders before him.
His credentials are amazing and should never be overlooked or labeled as "not MMA." He's held titles in every promotion he's graced and even beat Dan Henderson at a time when people thought he'd found his groove enough at middleweight to challenge UFC 185-pound kingpin Anderson Silva.
I must admit, I used to not be a huge fan of Jake Shields. Heck, I even thought he was a "lay 'n pray" fighter myself.
However, I grew to acknowledge what he's accomplished and it's simply amazing. His wins are comparable to GSP's and he may even have the bigger recent win (Dan Henderson).
Whatever happens at UFC 129, we should all be able to agree that Jake Shields is a remarkable fighter who has shown toughness and resilience throughout his MMA career. He is a fascinating tale of a guy considered "undersized" by practically all and still overcame the odds.
Win or lose on April 30, I will respect Jake Shields.