MMA Power Rankings -- WELTERWEIGHT

Updated: February 28, 2012, 6:03 AM ET
By ESPN.com staff | ESPN.com
Monday, Feb. 27
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Date:


Jake Shields was expected to defeat Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 144, but there were plenty of variables in play. For starters, Akiyama was fighting in his native Japan as a welterweight -- a division that the UFC has long implored him to test. Then there was Shields himself, who had lost two in a row and was coming back from a violent first-round TKO loss to Jake Ellenberger. Would he bounce back strong from the losses?

He did. But Akiyama gave him trouble. In fact, he nailed a textbook harai goshi on Shields that reminded everyone of his judo background.

With Shields rediscovering his winning ways, he closes back in on a mess of contenders in the division. And how crazy it's gotten in a short time -- with Georges St. Pierre out until possibly November, Carlos Condit waiting to find out how long before committing to defend the interim title, and Nick Diaz looking at a suspension, it's not so much that Shields is climbing back to the top as it is the top coming down to him. Otherwise, Josh Koscheck is fighting Johny Hendricks in a conditional title eliminator in May, Ellenberger is waiting to see what happens with Condit, and Thiago Alves is sett to fight Martin Kampmann on March 2 in Australia ... which means Shields could be back into the top five before long without fighting again.

Lots of flux going on at 170 pounds.