Former Strikeforce middleweight champion, Jake Shields, has been quietly climbing up the welterweight rankings since dropping back-to-back fights to Georges St-Pierre and Jake Ellenberger.

Now the 35-year old seems to be in reaching distance of UFC gold, all that stands in his way is Hector Lombard who is set to meet Shields later this month. According to the Cesar Gracie fighter he should be next in line for the belt if he beats the Olympian:

I’ve gotta be close,” Shields told MMAjunkie Radio. “I’m on a good win streak right now, and I want to go out there put Hector away and hopefully finish, which isn’t an easy task. I would be the first guy to do it and get a title shot.

As Shields said, finishing Lombard will be a far from easy thing to do. The Cubans two losses in the UFC have both come from split-decisions in the middleweight division. In his welterweight debut Lombard looked devastating, knocking out former Strikeforce champion Nate Marquardt in under two minutes.

However, Shields has a strategy for his hard hitting opponent and unsurprisingly it involves taking him down:

I want to take him down, go for a submission, (and work) heavy ground and pound,” Shields said. “I think if I can finish him, I can probably get a title shot. So I need to go out there and push as hard as I possibly can.

“Hector’s a guy you can’t go in and push too fast; you don’t want to go in and start trading with him, because in my mind, he’s quite possibly the hardest hitter in the 170-pound division.”

Lombard has made his intentions for the fight perfectly clear, openly stating that he will knock Shields out and calling his future opponent boring. But Shields doesn't care what the Cuban says, as he thinks Lombard knows a hard fight is coming up.

Guys will say whatever, like, ‘It’s going to be an easy fight,’ but when you’re fighting someone at the top level, we all know that it’s not going to be an easy fight,” he said. “I don’t think Hector’s going to be an easy fight. I’d be stupid to say that. I could pretend in this interview and say, ‘Oh, I’m going to walk right through him,’ but Hector’s a beast, man.

“I know that, he knows I’m tough, and we’ve both got to be at the top of our game that night.”

Shields knows he has a huge task ahead of him when the pair meet at UFC 171, but he also knows a win would be huge for him and hopes it will be enough to get him the next crack at the title.

“I think if I win this fight, I’m the most deserving of it.”

Do you think Shields deserves a title shot with a win over Lombard?