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MMA: Shields in rare role of underdog

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Posted: Saturday, April 30, 2011 10:00 pm | Updated: 8:36 am, Sun May 1, 2011.

Jake Shields is not used to the role of underdog.

Shields, who held the Elite XC welterweight and Strikeforce middleweight championships in recent years, enters Saturday night's main event of UFC 129 against Georges St-Pierre on a 15-fight winning streak, which spans seven years and includes victories over Dan Henderson, Paul Daley, Robbie Lawler and Yushin Okami. The card, which will take place in front of 55,000 fans at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, can be seen live on pay-per-view at 9 p.m. EST.

"It's doesn't really surprise me," Shields said of his underdog status. "It doesn't bother me at all. When I fought against Henderson, that surprised me. If you look at mine and Henderson's record at the time, we pretty much accomplished the same things. We fought all kinds of guys. He was the 4:1 favorite. It didn't bother me at all. I don't look at myself as the underdog in this fight. I look at it as two guys going in even. In my mind, I'm going to go out there and win."

Even with a resume as impressive as Shields possesses, St-Pierre offers a unique opportunity. Long regarded as the world's top welterweight and one of the best pound-for-pound fighters on the planet, St-Pierre mastered the art of countering his opponents' strengths and changing his style accordingly.

St-Pierre enters with an eight-fight win streak, including wins over former UFC champions Matt Hughes, Matt Serra and B.J. Penn.

"There's a lot of differences between me and those guys," said Shields, a 32-year-old California native with a 26-4-1 mark. "I mentally refuse to lose and always find a way to win. I've got more heart. I'm better at conditioning. My grappling is on a completely different level than those guys.

"As far as Georges goes, he's completely different than anyone I've fought too. He's in the best condition. He's one of the best strikers. He's one of those guys with very little holes in his game. Most guys, you can watch and break down and you see big holes and figure out where to exploit them. Georges is a guy with only a few small holes. Of course, he still does have his weaknesses."

St-Pierre, a 29-year old who fights out of Montreal, embraces the challenge of fighting Shields and further proving his standing atop the welterweight charts.

"I welcome the challenge," said St-Pierre, who has a 21-2 record. "I want to fight the best. I want to be the best. I don't want to be a paper champion. I want to be a real champion. And to be a real champion, I need to fight the best, the best contender, the best guy. I count Jake Shields like a champion too. He's champion in many different organizations and many different weight classes, something I've never done. I take this fight very seriously."

The night marks the UFC debut of Jose Aldo, who was crowned the promotion's featherweight champion after World Extreme Cagefighting's roster was folded into the UFC last year.

Aldo (18-1) will fight Mark Hominick, who defeated George Roop in January to become the top contender and improve to 20-8.

"Hominick is a great fighter," Aldo said. "He is the number one contender. I know this is his dream too. But his dream must come to an end for my dream to go on. And I have come too far, worked too hard and want to take care of my family too much to let anyone take this UFC belt from me."

The night will also mark the end of UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture's career. The former multiple-time champion in both the light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions will fight former light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida.

"It's my 30th fight," Couture said. "I've been doing this for 14 years. It's time to focus on the other things in my life and enjoy my life a little bit."

-- Light heavyweights Vladimir Matyushenko and Jason Brilz and lightweights Mark Bocek and Ben Henderson will also compete on the pay-per-view.

A pair of preliminary welterweight fights will air live on Spike TV at 8 p.m. EST. Nate Diaz will fight Rory MacDonald, and Sean Pierson will fight Jake Ellenberger.

Five other preliminary fights will air on the UFC's Facebook page at 6 p.m. EST. The matches include: welterweights Claude Patrick vs. Daniel Roberts; bantamweights Ivan Menjivar vs. Charlie Valencia; middleweights Jason MacDonald vs. Ryan Jensen; lightweights John Makdessi vs. Kyle Watson; and featherweights Yves Jabouin vs. Pablo Garza.

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