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Jake Shields released from his Strikeforce contract

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Three and out.

Strikeforce Middleweight Champion Jake Shields has been released from his contract with Strikeforce, the San Jose-based mixed martial arts promotion he's called home since the collapse of Elite XC nearly two years ago, according to a report from

After a successful title run under the Pro Elite banner from 2007-08, Shields was picked from the rubble by Scott Coker and Co. following the financial implosion of Elite XC, expedited by Kimbogate on the "Heat" fight card in October 2008.

The Cesar Gracie disciple made his Strikeforce debut against Robbie Lawler in June 2009, strangling the former UFC brawler with a "Ruthless" guillotine just past the two minute mark in the first round of their main event attraction.

Back-to-back decision wins over Jason "Mayhem" Miller and Dan Henderson on CBS would follow, leaving Shields with an option to stay for one more fight or head for greener pastures, depending on the promotion's ability to meet his salary requirements for one last ride.

Able, but apparently not willing.

During his recent negotiations, Shields flirted with the UFC and spoke publicly about his desire to fight Octagon champions Georges "Rush" St. Pierre (welterweight) and Anderson "The Spider" Silva (middleweight).

He also served as assistant coach to Chuck Liddell on season 11 of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF).

While he competed in the 185-pound class in Strikeforce, Shields is a natural 170-pound competitor and has the flexibility to move between weight classes depending on what opportunities present themselves.

Of course his debut as a Zuffa employee is not yet confirmed, but widely accepted as a foregone conclusion in light of his release from Strikeforce. UFC President Dana White has gone on the record stating he'll "definitely" sign the grappling stud on multiple occasions.

In his absence, Strikeforce will likely proceed with a 185-pound tournament to determine a new champion.

So, now that the wheels are in motion, what match-ups intrigue you the most? Does Shields automatically get a crack at the winner of Georges St. Pierre vs. Josh Koscheck? Or does he need to prove his merit against the winner of Jon Fitch vs. Thiago Alves?

Or maybe straight to the winner of Chael Sonnen vs. Anderson Silva?

Let's hear your predictions!