For the first edition of the Hidden Gem series, it’s only right to feature Jake Shields (28-6-1 MMA, 3-2UFC) who faces Brazilian Jiu Jitsu ace Damian Maia (18-4 MMA, 12-4 UFC) at UFC Fight Night 29 on October 9th. The two will meet in a welterweight bout in Sao Paolo, Brazil in a rare headlining contest between two elite grapplers.

When fighters make it to the UFC and find success there, it’s far too easy to let their fights outside the UFC go unnoticed. The UFC has cemented itself as the unofficial “Big Leagues” of MMA but what we fail to recognize is that many of the world’s elite fighters (and some that would eventually come to be UFC champions) have met in the smaller or shorter lived organizations.

The Hidden Gem series aims to expose these lesser known fights to the mainstream audience so that they may be appreciated regardless of the fact that they took place outside the UFC.

Today’s bout featuring Jake Shields and Mike Pyle took place in the now defunct Elite XC organization on November 10th, 2007 and included the inaugural lightweight championship fight between Nick Diaz and KJ Noons.

On fight night Shields, a -351 favorite, was riding an eight fight win streak over the likes of Carlos Condit and Yushin Okami. Pyle had just compiled two straight wins and was a +301 underdog.

While Shields has struggled to find a definitive finish in his UFC career to date, during this period he was having no such troubles with the likes of Robbie Lawler and Paul Daley also falling victim to submission defeats at his hands.

Shields has fought a staggering 30 professional MMA fights outside the UFC and there will surely be more of him in the Hidden Gem series.