When the UFC 171 main and co-main events are over on Saturday night, a new welterweight champion will be crowned and most likely the next challenger for the belt as well.
Johny Hendricks battles Robbie Lawler in the headline fight with the welterweight title up for grabs while Carlos Condit takes on Tyron Woodley with a chance to secure the top contender’s spot with a win.
It’s the fourth fight down on the card that isn’t receiving nearly as much attention despite the fact that one of the competitors involved has wins over three of the four fighters headlining the card from Dallas.
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Jake Shields, currently ranked No. 6 in the world at welterweight, has been trying mightily to land a fight to earn him another shot at the UFC 170-pound belt. Shields already holds victories over Condit, Lawler and Woodley, but yet he remains on the outside looking in when it comes to title talk in the UFC.
The former Strikeforce champion tried to call out both Condit and Lawler before this show was put together, but instead the UFC opted to give him a bout against No. 12 ranked Hector Lombard. Shields can’t deny that it’s frustrating to keep winning while already holding victories against some of the division’s elite fighters, but still get passed over when title shots are being talked about.
I think coming off two huge wins and being overlooked a little bit, I want to go out there and put Hector away
— Jake Shields
"I feel like a little bit (I’m being overlooked)," Shields told FOX Sports. "I would have much rather had (Carlos) Condit or (Robbie) Lawler. Condit would have made more sense, I think one it’s an easier fight for me and plus he’s a bigger name, higher ranked, that was definitely the fight I wanted but the UFC asked for Hector. Not really much I could do."
Now part of the reason Shields has probably been passed over lately has to do with his style inside the cage. In the fight against Woodley, the California native stuck to him like glue, using clinch work and takedown attempts to win the fight. In his most recent performance, Shields bested Demian Maia with great ground work and slick reversals on the mat. As a matter of fact in his four UFC wins, Shields has yet to finish an opponent.
It’s landed the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt in precarious waters because his style wins fights, but it’s also not garnering him much favor with the higher ups at the UFC when it comes to title contention. It’s a big reason why Shields wants to make a statement by beating Hector Lombard this weekend to remind everybody that he was considered one of the top welterweight fighters on the planet just a few short years ago.
"I think coming off two huge wins and being overlooked a little bit, I want to go out there and put Hector away," Shields said. "I think Hector’s a really tough and dangerous fighter, so it’s not going to be an easy fight. I want to go out there ready and dominate him.
"I’ve beaten most of the top guys in my division right now along with some 85-pounders, so I think I’m right there. Hopefully, this fight will put me in line for a title shot so I can get that title finally."
I want to go out there and make it a great fight so I can get the title shot
— Jake Shields
Fortune could shine on Shields depending on how Saturday night plays out at UFC 171. If Robbie Lawler beats Johny Hendricks for the title, Shields’ stock goes up because he holds a win over the veteran welterweight fighter. It also helps his cause if Woodley can beat Condit, because Shields beat him just one fight ago.
It would certainly take a lot of pieces falling into place, but Shields is willing to roll the dice and hope that once the dust settles, he’s standing tall as the new No. 1 contender for the belt. The only thing he can control is his fight against Lombard, and then Shields will be sitting cage side rooting for Woodley and Lawler to take care of business.
"I just beat Tyron so if he wins and I beat Hector, hopefully I’ll beat him in a dominating fashion, hopefully I’ll be able to finish him. I don’t think anyone’s ever finished Hector, but I’d love to be the first to do that," Shields said. "I want to go out there and make it a great fight so I can get the title shot."