Now that Georges St-Pierre is out of the picture, the UFC welterweight field is wide open.
Shields once fought St-Pierre for the 170-pound title, coming up short in a unanimous-decision loss at UFC 129. This weekend, however, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt can get back in the title hunt.
If he can finish the unfinished Lombard that is.
“Hopefully I'll beat him in a dominating fashion. Hopefully I'll be able to finish him. I'd love to be the first to do that,” Shields told The Great MMA Debate Podcast. “That's why I'm training so hard, and I want to go out there and make it a great fight so I can get that title shot.”
With GSP figuring out his personal problems — whatever those might be — Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler are fighting for the title he vacated. Shields and Lombard will settle their differences on the same Dallas fight card. Not only are those four squaring off, but Carlos Condit and Tyron Woodley will lock horns as well.
It's a welterweight melting pot, and any one of the latter four will likely face the Hendricks vs. Lawler winner in their next fight. Anything can happen, Shields said, but there's a high probability that the No. 1 contender will come out of this weekend's card.
“Most likely it'll be the winner of me and Hector or Tyron and Condit,” he predicts. “You never know in the UFC because anything's possible, but that makes the most sense.”
Most pundits are currently pointing at Condit vs. Woodley as the No. 1 contender's bout, but a strong performance goes a long way for a fighter with title aspirations.
Earning the title shot, of course, won't be an easy task for Shields. Getting through Lombard, a former Olympic judoka, will be like fighting a bully, which is how Shields described his opponent's style. The opening moments of the fight give Lombard the opportunity to bully his foes, Shields said. The plan is to prevent that from happening, making the hulking Cuban fighter dole out the respect.
Shields doesn't plan on getting chased around, falling into Lombard's game, only to get knocked out.
“Especially the first few minutes, he likes to go out there and bully guys,” he said. “You can't let him bully you away and run away scared. You have to go out there and make it a fight and make him respect you back. You see a lot of those fights where he starts chasing guys around, that's where he gets the knockout because he just comes out so confident, hitting so hard, and guys don't like it. So you have to go out there, shake things up, and change it up.
“Hector's a guy that you have to be really technical and strategic with. He's just such a power puncher, you don't want to go out there and play his game. You don't want to match power with Hector.”
And with that game plan, Shields anticipates coming out on top on Saturday. If all goes as well as he hopes, Shields could walk out of Dallas, forcing himself into the role of the new No. 1 contender. And if he earns the title a little further down the line, a rematch of UFC 129 doesn't sound like a bad idea.
Not a bad idea at all.
“I like GSP and I would love to fight him again, but I think it's really exciting right now,” he says. “It makes for a great fight if I can go out there and get that title and hopefully GSP would want to come back and fight again once things change up in a year.”
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