Back in April at UFC 129, Jake Shields was beaten pretty handily by a one-eyed Georges St. Pierre. It was a typical performance from "Rush"; dominating but in no way risky, ensuring that the UFC welterweight strap stayed secure and safe around his trim French-Canadian waist.
Four and a half months later, Shields returns in the main event of tomorrow's (Sept. 17) UFC Fight Night 25: "Shields vs. Ellenberger" card where he will take on the heavy-handed wrestler Jake Ellenberger who is looking to extend his Octagon winning streak to five.
A victory for either fighter puts them in prime real estate in the highly-regarded title contenders' neighborhood (the school system is excellent, by the way), a situation that "The Juggernaut" would surely embrace. No one becomes a full-time fighter without the intention of someday fighting for the sport's greatest prize.
The same opportunity that Ellenberger would immediately jump at isn't as glimmering a prospect for Shields however. And it's for that reason the former Strikeforce champion should return to the weight class where he originally won those 12 pounds of gold.
A return to 185-pounds is exactly what Jake Shields needs if he doesn't want his career to stall out.
Why? Well, you got to keep reading to find out!
After "GSP" slammed a litany of knees into Matt Serra's ribcage and made B.J. Penn quit on his stool, there hasn't been an opponent the welterweight champ has faced that made you think, "Wow! What a great fight! I'd love to see the rematch!"
He dominated Jon Fitch, Thiago Alves, Dan Hardy, and Josh Koscheck en route to his match-up with Shields and barely broke a sweat doing it. Fitch looked like he was the victim of a barely unsuccessful mob hit and "Rush" fought Alves for over 10 minutes with a pulled muscle in the most precious of areas for a young man.
St. Pierre's performances against "The Outlaw" and Koscheck drew criticism only because it became painfully obvious early on into both bouts that the champ was leagues above his opponents in both natural talent and trained skill. But yet, he was still unable -- or unwilling -- to take the risk needed to finish either fight.
The 25-minutes he spent inside the Octagon with Shields were more of the same and at the end of the night, no one was clamoring to see the two fighters lock horns again.
The welterweight division became so anemic of challengers that the UFC poached an opponent from the newly-acquired Strikeforce promotion. But when Nick Diaz became too much of a liability, he was swapped out with Carlos Condit who now takes on the unenviable task of facing St. Pierre.
If and when "Rush" decides to move up to middleweight, the entire 170-pound roster should send the French-Canadian an Edible Arrangements basket. I recommend the Delicious Fruit Design. It looks incredible.
Only then will welterweight title matches have some measure of intrigue since for nearly half a decade, St. Pierre has been walking through each and every fighter the UFC puts in front of him.
But there's something about Shields that separates him from the rest of the pack.
The Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) black belt has competed and been successful in the middleweight division which puts him in a unique situation among his 170-pound brethren.
After his fight with Ellenberger, moving up a weight class could provide Shields with a title shot in as little as one or two fights. His credentials as a former Strikeforce middleweight champion are just as staunch as those under his belt as a welterweight that earned him his title contenders bout with Martin Kampmann.
There are also more interesting match-ups for him in that weight class that would draw more eyeballs than if he were taking on other welterweights that "GSP" has beaten.
Depending on what Dan Henderson weighs when he signs a new UFC contract, a rematch of their infamous Nashville bout could easily serve as the co-main event of a pay-per-view (PPV) or primetime Fox card. "Hendo" -- who seems intent on taking on either Anderson Silva or Jon Jones -- could take the fight to heal some wounded pride if there was enough money greasing the wheels.
And as long as we've got Nashville and rematches on the brain, I know there's a hair-dyed MTV show host who is wondering where his rematch is.
Jason Miller has a date with Michael Bisping on December 3 at The Ultimate Fighter 14 Finale and should he win, a number one contenders bout between "Mayhem" and Shields comes packaged with a storyline already built into it. The UFC just needs to make sure that Nick and Nate Diaz are nowhere near the Octagon.
And of course, should Miller be felled by "The Count" that evening in December, a fresh bout between the cocky Briton and Shields could also be booked to decide who can take on "The Spider." Silva will be kept busy in the mean time by either Brian Stann or Chael Sonnen.
Moving back up to 185-pounds provides Shields with a more exciting future than he would have by staying at welterweight. There, he remains a cog in the Georges St. Pierre Machine unlikely to rise any higher than he already is.
As a middleweight, he can reignite old rivalries, create new ones, and challenge for another title.
Win, loss, or draw, come Sunday morning, Shields should be a middleweight.