jake-shieldsJake Shields and his team have officially announced that he has signed with the UFC and will make his promotional debut at 170 lbs, his natural weight class. Recently Shields found a home in the Strikeforce middleweight division with the lack of depth at 170 lbs. He beat Robbie Lawler, Jason Miller and Dan Henderson – all impressive wins. He will be entering the heavily stacked UFC welterweight division and we decided to take a crack at some options for his first fight.

1.Paulo Thiago

Thiago is coming off a decision loss to Martin Kampman at UFC 115 in June. Prior to that he has wins over Josh Koshcheck and Mike Swick and sports a 3-2 UFC record.

Why it works

Thiago is a top 10 fighter who has 5 UFC fights and a good amount of fan exposure and lots of TV/PPV time. He has a good ground game and an ever improving stand up game with some knock out power. It would be a good test for Shields and give him a win over a top 10 opponent. If he can’t beat Thiago then he isn’t ready for a title shot right now anyways.

Martin Kampmann

Kampmann is coming off a win over Thiago at UFC 115 in Vancouver. He has a TKO loss to Paul Daley on his record less than 12 months.

Why it works

Another top 10 fighter who would bring a name to the fight. Kampmann is a more patient fighter than Thiago and would pose more problems to Shields on the feet, but it would show how ready Shields is for the top 5 in the division and possibly a title shot. I would be concerned that Kampmann could out point Shields, keep the fight standing on his way to a decision victory – thus eliminating any Jake Shield momentum and cancelling out another top contender for GPS’s belt.

Winner of Jon Fitch vs Thiago Alves

The two will fight at UFC 117 in August. Whoever wins this fight will vault himself over the other nearing the top of the division.

Why it works

Shields would face a HUGE test in fighting either one of these guys and give him huge credibility with the casual UFC fan. It also allows the UFC to string either Fitch or Alves along, since they have both had title shots and no one is really clamouring for either to get a rematch at GSP. There is much more risk in this fight for Shields, since this would be his first UFC fight and he would be thrown to the wolves. It’s certainly not a fight he can’t win, but something a little less dangerous off the hop might work better for both Shields and the UFC.

Prediction – Paulo Thiago. He has a big enough name that a win over him will resonate with the casual fan and the risk of him losing is low. Depending how good Shields looks, you put him in vs another top contender or give him an immediate title shot, sometime in 2011.