Former Strikeforce Champ Jake Shields Moving Up to UFC’s Middleweight Division

Jake Shields

Shields went 2-2 in UFC’s welterweight division

Jake Shields has decided to return to the division he last won a title in.

The former Strikeforce middleweight champion, who signed with the UFC in 2010 to compete in its welterweight division – and who lost a 170-pound title fight 11 months ago to Georges St-Pierre – will return to 185 pounds later this year. The news was first reported on Tuesday night’s episode of “UFC Tonight” on Fuel TV.

Shields (27-6-1, 2-2 UFC) snapped a two-fight skid – the first of his career – last month with a unanimous decision victory over Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 144 in Japan. But despite winning 30-27 on all three judges’ scorecards, the fight was closer than those numbers indicate. Several media outlets scored the fight in favor of Akiyama much in the same way Shields’ split decision win over Martin Kampmann in his UFC debut at UFC 121 was thought by many to be won by Kampmann.

Sandwiched in between those two close decision wins were a pair of losses. Despite losing a unanimous decision to St-Pierre at UFC 129 last April, Shields snapped the champ’s lengthy consecutive rounds streak. But in his follow-up at UFC Fight Night 25 in September, Shields was knocked out by Jake Ellenberger in just 53 seconds. That fight came shortly after the death of Shields’ father, who also was his manager.

Shields was a welterweight champion for EliteXC, but he is no stranger to middleweight. He moved up to 185 after a catch weight submission win over Robbie Lawler in his Strikeforce debut and beat Jason “Mayhem” Miller for the vacant belt. Then, in one of the best performances of his career, he survived a brutal first round against Dan Henderson in his first title defense and took the next four rounds in April 2010. Shields signed with the UFC on a 14-fight winning streak, a streak that hit 15 before his loss to St-Pierre.

Shields’ first UFC opponent at middleweight is not yet known, but the California-based fighter, who now also trains with the Imperial Athletics team in South Florida, has said he expects to fight again in August. The UFC currently has UFC on Fox 4 planned for Aug. 4 in Los Angeles, but the schedule likely will be filled out with a pay-per-view event that month, likely to be UFC 150.