Shields is often billed as a boring fighter. His dominant grappling has allowed him to control nearly every fight he’s in, but his grinder mentality – the same mentality shared by fellow UFC welterweights Jon Fitch and Georges St. Pierre – doesn’t exactly make him a fan favorite.
Saturday night’s performance was no different.
Shields earned an early takedown in his UFC 121 co-main event bout against Martin Kampmann and effortlessly moved to mount. As Joe Rogan stated numerous times in the broadcast, Shields’ grappling is simply top-notch, and he displayed it whenever the fight hit the ground during the first two rounds. But Kampmann proved difficult to hold down at several points, and Shields never came close to finishing the fight.
While Kampmann spent the majority of the first two rounds doing everything in his power to stay off of his back, the third round was a different story.
The Dane took control of the contest in the final frame, as Shields, exhausted, was clearly affected by a steep weight cut. Kampmann began working his combinations and, though he was hesitant at times, landed some decent shots, while Shields attempted to shoot in for takedowns without setting them up at all. In fact, it was Kampmann who ended up working the fight to the ground and ending up on top of his spent foe.
But it was Kampmann’s aggression – which could just as easily be tagged as generosity towards Shields – that was his downfall. He gift-wrapped a transition to his opponent, who rolled over on top. Looking back, that single mental block may have cost Kampmann the fight.
Kampmann’s failure to fight to his strengths, something that he has done often in his career, is really not the point. The fact of the matter is that Shields looked the worst he has in years. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a bad Jake Shields performance, but I saw one Saturday night.
I had Shields winning the fight two rounds to one, and two of the three judges also believed he earned the win. That should scare the rest of the UFC welterweights. A dehydrated and depleted Shields fought against a top welterweight who was a terrible stylistic match up for him, yet he still walked away with the victory. When you’re at your worst and still take home the win, you’re going to intimidate plenty of other welterweights.
The Jake Shields we saw on Saturday night would get killed by Georges St. Pierre. It’s not even close. But Shields has undoubtedly learned his lesson and won’t be attempting another twenty pound weight cut on weigh-in day. We’ve seen what Shields can truly do when given the opportunity, and you can rest assured he won’t let another opportunity pass him by.