Jake Shields is riding a 13-match win streak and hasn’t lost a mixed martial arts bout since 2004, but the San Francisco resident and current Strikeforce middleweight champion may be facing the toughest opponent of his career Saturday night in MMA legend Dan Henderson.
Shields (24-4-1) will try to defend his middleweight title against Henderson (25-7) at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. The bout will be broadcast nationally on CBS.
“[Shields] has had a really good run,” said Mauro Ranallo, a television analyst for Strikeforce and CBS. “He did what he had to do [to win the middleweight title] and shocked everyone the way he did it [against Jason Miller], but this is going to be the toughest opponent he’s seen.”
Henderson, who left the vaunted UFC to join Strikeforce at the end of last year, is still the only MMA fighter to hold championships in two different weight classes at the same time. He also is a two-time Olympic wrestler, competing in the games in 1992 and 1996.
“Henderson is a great fighter, one of the best of all time,” Shields said. “It’s going to be a big test, a test that I’m up for. It’s a huge chance for me to show off my skills to the nation.”
Shields, a former All-American wrestler at San Francisco State University, looks to ride the momentum of his win streak, but is doing his best to stay grounded.
“I’m feeling really confident,” Shields said. “I’m on a huge win streak against great competition. In MMA that’s hard to do, but I don’t want to get overconfident; that could get me in trouble.”
Ranallo gives Shields the advantage on the ground in a potential submission situation and gives Henderson the edge in upright striking power.
“Shields has to take this fight down to the ground, which is easier said than done against. He’s a grappling wizard,” Ranallo said. “Henderson is stronger and, I think, has the advantage. He’s going to try to stay standing and grind out Shields with his huge right hand.”
Shields pointed out that he has seen small weaknesses in Henderson’s former fights, but was not willing to give up any strategy so close to the fight.
“He doesn’t have a lot of weaknesses,” Shields said. “Henderson doesn’t have a lot of holes, but I’ve found a few things that I’m going to try to exploit.”
Shields is still considered a rising star in many MMA circles, but a win against such an accomplished opponent could push him over the top.
“If he wins this fight, there’s talk that he may end up in the UFC,” Ranallo said. “This is a big fight for him, to say the least.”
WHEN: Saturday, 9 p.m.
WHERE: Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, Tenn.
MAIN CARD: Jake Shields (24-4-1) vs. Dan Henderson (25-7), Gegard Mousasi (28-2-1) vs. Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal (6-0), Gilbert Melendez (17-2) vs. Shinya Aoki (23-4)
TV: CBS (KPIX, Ch. 5)