The third and final installment of the 'UFC: Primetime' series promoting the UFC 129 main event is officially in the books. Overall, I don't believe this series to be impactful for reasons I've already outlined. The biggest beneficiary of this process, though, has unequivocally been Jake Shields.
Shields was largely unknown to the UFC masses prior to this bout. On a fundamental level, he's gaining important exposure here, to say nothing of what the fight itself will bring in Toronto. I don't think hardcore fans who are familiar with his skill set have been swayed too much, but the show did an excellent job of elevating Shields' stature. Georges St. Pierre himself, his training partners, coaches and everyone else has been effusive in their assessment of Shields' abilities. That's candidly third-party validation hardcore fans are loathe to offer.
Shields walks away from this experience not only having his name become more recognizable, but his skills cosigned. I'm sure there's plenty of clever editing, but in part one of this episode Shields appears to hold his own against UFC light heavweight and NCAA Division I national champion wrestler Phil Davis. In conjunction with what GSP's own team is saying about Shields, that has to help his stock with a key portion of fans.
Maybe none of this sways the oddsmakers, but this ultimately is attention and validation that was largely absent from Shields' Strikeforce career. If Shields loses the fight Saturday, he still walks away with his profile as a MMA fighter and elite welterweight elevated from where it was during his Strikeforce days. I'm sure winning the fight is his key goal, but that's not the worst consolation prize ever.