Jake Shields won in the fashion that Jake Shields wins fights. And a lot of people still do not like it.
Shields brought home a split decision win against Demian Maia, which could be seen as one of the most lackluster main events of 2013, with a five-round grappling exhibition that did not please the fans one bit (watch highlights here).
It is ironic that Shields has found a way to win and he still faces controversy, with this fight and his win over Tyron Woodley coming to mind. Whether or not pundits had it three rounds-to-two in favor of Shields, four rounds to one or even had Shields winning all five rounds, he left Brazil as the winner in a pretty boring fight. As a matter of fact, everyone always finds Shields' fights boring.
That is not his problem, though.
Let us not oversimplify what this victory does for Shields. In no way can he contend for a championship belt right now and even putting himself in a number one contender's bout -- something he called for in light of his victory -- would be wishful thinking. Shields did exactly what he needed to do: he won a fight, and now he will move on to another fight. That is an obvious statement, yet a fair one since we should not have these grand options for the Californian.
Shields, a former Shooto, Elite XC and Strikeforce champion, found major success early on in his career and has ousted an impressive bunch, including Carlos Condit, Yushin Okami, Dan Henderson, Robbie Lawler, Paul Daley and Martin Kampmann. When he entered Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), he defeated Kampmann and was given a title shot against Georges St. Pierre at UFC 129 and lost his chance at winning the title. He moved to 2-1 (1) afterward and with a knockout loss and a "No Contest" because of a failed drug test, Shields needed to win this fight to erase any doubt that his job was on the line.
Now having a record of 4-2 (1) in the promotion, he can breathe. His fighting style is not among the favorites at the brass' headquarters, yet letting go a former champion at this point seems a little odd.
It is difficult to sit here and say Shields must be more exciting and trade more often because he has found major success sticking to his bread and butter -- and has won multiple titles in that domain. Maybe the fans are unhappy; however, Shields is doing nothing different and it keeps on working. He could be one of the best grapplers in the game today, if not the best, and if observers cannot appreciate that, it is hardly his fault.
As for his next fight, his way of approaching it should be just like another day at the office.
There are a handful of guys at welterweight he could match up well against, like Tarec Saffiedine, the winner of Hector Lombard vs. Nate Marquardt, Rousimar Palhares, Josh Koscheck (if he should win his next fight against Tyron Woodley at UFC 167), the winner of Carlos Condit vs. Matt Brown at UFC on FOX 9 and the list goes on.
Shields cannot expect that "one more fight before a title shot type of battle" -- without sounding cliché, he needs to go in there and fight against whoever the promotion puts in front of him. A two-fight winning streak is a good way to bounce back into being viewed as one of the world's best fighters and Shields needs to continue to prove that he belongs with the best.
This is not to dumb-down a victory against Maia, who was looking great at welterweight with a three-fight winning streak. Maia is as durable as they come, having been fighting for the organization since 2007 with a record of 12-5. Defeating Maia is something Shields should be proud of, but the Cesar Gracie affiliate has beaten world-class opponents before and knows he must keep on tearing them down if he wants a second title shot in UFC. Shields has talent, there is no question about it.
The best option right now is to keep winning, and things will start to unfold themselves.
He has been fighting professionally since 1999. He knows how it works. He has had his glory and he has had his heartbreaking moments. He simply needs to keep on fighting.
For our complete UFC Fight Night 29: "Maia vs. Shields" story stream with news, videos, results and more, click here.