Who gave Jake Shields a chance?
Coming into the Strikeforce: Nashville event April 17, very few people were giving the Cesar Gracie-trained fighter a chance at defeating the MMA legend and veteran of the sport, Dan Henderson.
Hell, a majority of the fans watching probably didn't even know who Jake Shields was before the fight took place. And even the majority of those who knew of what Shields was capable thought he had the slightest of chances to win the fight.
He was too small and too inexperienced to battle someone with the capabilities of Henderson.
His takedowns weren't going to be enough to get past the Greco-Roman sprawl of Henderson.
Every fight starts on the feet, which spells doom for Shields because he has very little to offer in a striking war against the dangerous, yet highly predictable, style of Henderson.
In the first round, all of those statements appeared to be true. Shields even appeared to believe them with a nervous expression on his face before the opening bell rang.
The bell sounds, and Henderson stuffed the takedown attempts of Shields with relative ease. Then he made Shields pay for the attempts with brutal shots, dropping the champion with his nuclear-armed right hand on a couple occasions.
Many believed Shields was done at this point. It seemed only a matter of time before referee "Big" John McCarthy was pulling Henderson away from the clearly dazed Shields. However, acting on pure instincts developed during training, Shields survived the rest of the first round and regained his composure.
Rounds two through five were a different story.
Shields started to gain momentum as he dragged Henderson to the mat with little effort. He was able to slide through the guard and gain the mount easily, especially as the fight went into the later rounds.
Unable to finish Henderson, Shields earned the unanimous decision victory over the famed, former UFC fighter. With zero fights remaining on his contract, many wonder where Jake Shields heads from here.
The Strikeforce Middleweight Champion has expressed interest in testing the free-agency waters in search of bigger fish to fry after his fight with Henderson. Because Strikeforce has arguably the second-best roster in MMA, one could assume that Shields is talking about the UFC, where the huge fights are a dime-a-dozen.
UFC president Dana White has expressed growing interest in obtaining Shields, and that interest likely has grown twofold because Shields just knocked Henderson down a few levels.
Fans need to remember that Henderson was rated by many as the second-best middleweight in the world after his destructive knockout against Michael Bisping, and Shields just beat the former handily.
Shields is now riding a 14-fight win streak through two divisions that includes wins against Dan Henderson, Robbie Lawlor, Paul Daley, Carlos Condit, and Yushin Okami.
With the UFC middleweight and welterweight divisions in dire need of new challengers for the title, you better believe that Dana White will pull out all the stops to land Shields when his management team comes calling.
Now, consider the fact that Shields received very little recognition in the pre-fight hype leading up to this bout, as the promotional efforts focused on Henderson for a majority of the advertisements. In numerous interviews, Shields mentioned that he felt he deserved more praise for his work with Strikeforce in the build-up to the fight.
With Jake Shields feeling under-appreciated with his company and in search of bigger fights, Dana White must be grinning like a Cheshire cat about now.
Is there any better way for Shields to stick it to a company, which he helped build, that promoted him as little as possible leading up to this fight by leaving with one of their championships around his waist to go and fight for a rival organization?
Only time will tell if both parties can make a deal in the coming months.