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UFC 144 Preview: Jake Shields Potentially In Must-Win Situation Against Yoshihiro Akiyama

At UFC 144: Edgar vs. Henderson, multiple Bay Area and California ties will be on showcase, including Quinton "Rampage" Jackson against Ryan Bader in the co-main event. That being said, there's another tie who was born in California and who currently fights out of San Francisco: Jake Shields, of Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.

Shields, best known for his stint as the Strikeforce middleweight champion, will be taking on Yoshihiro Akiyama on the main card, hoping to get back in the win column after dropping his last two and arguably losing the third prior. Shields came into the UFC with a lot of hype, after submitting Robbie Lawler and winning unanimous decisions over Jason "Mayhem" Miller and Dan Henderson with Strikeforce.

Unfortunately, he hasn't really lived up to any of that hype. The UFC refused to give him an immediate title fight and instead had him fight Martin Kampmann at UFC 121, where he earned a split decision over the Danish kickboxer. Many are of the opinion that Shields didn't win that fight, and just about everyone believed that Shields looks really, really bad for what was expected of him.

So he followed that up with a shot at Georges St-Pierre and the Welterweight Championship. He clearly lost that fight, but did get in an eye poke that threw St-Pierre off for a little while, so there's that. Either way, Shields tried to get back to his winning ways with a fight against Jake Ellenberger in a headline bout, but was knocked out in the very first round. Prior to coming to the UFC, Shields had won 15-straight fights.

Up next, as noted above, is Akiyama at UFC 144, and it's not going to be an easy fight. Akiyama himself has lost three-straight fights, but he's been fighting a murderer's row of late. After losing to Chris Leben by last-second submission, Akiyama seemingly took a step up to fight Michael Bisping, which he lost by decision. Then, for some reason, he moved even further up the rankings to fight Vitor Belfort, a first-round knockout loss.

All of those fights were at middleweight, and Akiyama has now dropped down to welterweight to try and get his career back on track. On paper, Shields should be favored, but given Akiyama's level of competition, this is definitely no gimmie fight. Shields is a very talented fighter on a very talented team, though that team might be without its best fighter shortly if Nick Diaz and ever goes through with his retirement.

This writer is predicting a Shields submission and a return to his pursuit of grappling excellence. Akiyama has been submitted by guys with weaker jiu jitsu games, and Shields knows he has a chance of being cut if he loses.