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Strikeforce Middleweight Title Fight Breakdown: Jason Miller vs. Jake Shields

Jake ShieldsWhen Jason "Mayhem" Miller and Jake Shields step into the cage on Saturday, it will match up one of MMA's best known personalities with one of its most underrated fighters.

For all his verbosity and bluster, Miller is highly skilled and well rounded, and presents the surging Shields with a stern challenge in all facets of the fight game.

So how will the Stikeforee middleweight championship fight go down? Let's take a look.

Shields says it's his current goal to win both the Strikeforce middleweight and welterweight belts. He gets his chance to get the first on Saturday, as he and Miller battle for the title recently vacated by former champion Cung Le.

The 30-year-old Shields (23-4-1) has not lost in almost five years, winning 12 in a row during that time. A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, he is most dangerous on the ground, where he's won 10 of his fights by submission, including four in a row.

Once known as a fighter who frequently went to decisions, Shields has become a dangerous finisher, and hasn't gone the distance in any of his last eight fights.

Though Shields is often derided as a one-dimensional fighter, it is not a fair description, as his excellent ground game is well complemented by his above-average wrestling. Shields was a junior college All-American and wrestled at San Francisco State University. That pedigree usually gives him the option of putting the fight on the mat where he does his best work.

That wrestling ability is a critical part of his game, as it has caused more than one opponent to be overly cautious in the standup for fear of exposing himself for a takedown.

In recent fights, we've seen Shields become more comfortable on his feet, as he's spent more time practicing his kickboxing. He's still not especially fluid or technical, but because his other weapons tend to slow down his foes, his striking is passable.

While Shields gets the edge on the ground, Miller is the better striker. A problem for Miller might be that he's not quite dynamic enough on his feet to really threaten Shields. While Miller is 22-6 with one no contest in his career, only five of his wins are by KO or TKO (13 are by submission).

So what you might be left with is a guy with a great ground game (Shields) vs. a guy with a very good ground game (Miller). And while Mayhem hasn't lost by submission since 2002 (and that includes two fights against Brazilian ground wizard Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza), Shields' wrestling and positional excellence might be enough to edge his way through.

As far as finishing Miller on the ground, Shields is going to have no easy time doing it. Neither Jacare nor Georges St. Pierre could submit him despite several attempts at it.

One edge that could swing the fight Miller's way is conditioning. Miller seems to be able to keep a torrid pace for long stretches of time, and with this fight a five-round affair, the late rounds could turn the momentum in his direction.

If a tired Shields can't take him down, Miller is more than capable of doing enough standup damage to win rounds.

I expect Shields to come out strong with early takedowns and submission attempts that Miller escapes before the tide shifts in the second half of the fight, and Miller takes over with his standup advantage. The fight will hinge on exactly when Miller can turn the momentum.

While the logical outcome would be Shields outlasting Miller and taking a decision due to takedowns and positional control, I think Miller will find a way to stuff enough takedowns and beat Shields standing to earn the win and the championship.

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