Jake Shields: “I Have To Go Out And Reprove Myself”
Former #1 Contender Ready for Yoshihiro Akiyama
By Kelsey Mowatt
This time last year, Jake Shields was busy preparing for what was the biggest fight of his career, as the decorated fighter was set to battle UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre at UFC 129. Shields headed into the bout having put together an awe inspiring win streak of 15 fights, and many throughout the sport believed that the renowned grappler posed a legitimate threat to end St. Pierre’s extended reign.
Now one year later, Shields finds himself in a rather different position, as following a unanimous decision loss to GSP last April, the veteran was abruptly stopped by rising welterweight Jake Ellenberger in September. While some may have turned the page on Shields’s days as a contender, the 33 year-old is as confident as ever that he remains one of the world’s best fighters.
“Definitely, I do feel that way a little bit,” Shields told FCF recently, when asked if he believes some critics and fans have already written the former Strikeforce champ off. “I’ve been around this sport for a long time though, and I realize that if you get two losses in a row, you’re not a contender anymore. I also know that if you come back with an impressive win, you’re the greatest thing again; it’s the way the majority of these fans are. A lot of them have really short memory spans, so I know I’m in a situation where I have to go out and reprove myself.”
Shields’ quest to reassert his presence a the top of the world rankings, will of course begin on February 26th at UFC 144, when he faces Yoshihiro Akiyama. While the Japanese fighter is an established name and a high profile opponent, Shields naturally didn’t foresee facing the former middleweight next.
“It wasn’t a fight that I expected,” said Shields. “I didn’t picture him being a possibility because he’s fought at 185. But I thought about it, he’s a good fighter, so I said sure and I took it.”
“That’s really tough to say until I go out and fight him,” Shields added, while discussing whether the cut to welterweight could impact Akiyama’s performance. “Because of his height it’s probably going to be good for him, and people said he was an undersized middleweight, but he always looked pretty muscular to me…He could be better at this weight, he could be worse at this weight, so I’m just focused on being ready for the best Akiyama as possible.”
Akiyama is also desperately in need of a win, as the accomplished Judoka has now dropped three fights in a row to Chris Leben, Michael Bisping and most recently Vitor Belfort.
“Obviously I think he’s beatable, but he’s a really tough fighter,” Shields said about the 36 year-old-veteran. “He’s coming off some losses but most of them have been really close fights, against some tough talent, so I’m definitely not taking him lightly.”
As Shields alluded to, despite Akiyama’s recent defeats, the DREAM vet has drawn praise for his part in producing several memorable brawls.
“His striking is good; he has a lot of power,” Shields noted. “He’s not the most technical striker, he doesn’t put together a lot of combinations, but he comes in and is willing to take a punch to give a punch. Guys like that can be dangerous.”
“I’ve been working on my striking a lot because he hasn’t really been taken down that much,” Shields added, while discussing his strategy for UFC 144. “Some guys haven’t really shot that much on him, but when they have, he’s been able to stop the shots. He definitely has some strong hips and some good throws, so it will be interesting to see.”
That doesn’t mean of course that Shields isn’t hoping to utilize his highly regarded jiu-jitsu skills at some juncture during the fight.
“My last fight I was really hyped up and went out there a little wild,” Shields said. “I wasn’t setting anything up which is probably why I walked right into a knee. So I don’t want to make that same stupid mistake; I plan to go out there this time and set up a better shot with my striking.”