As Jake Shields stiffly welted away at Yoshihiro Akiyama in their UFC 144 feature bout, I turned to the friend I was watching the fight with and offered up a thought: “Jake really needs a little more Diaz in his style.”
We went on to discuss how baffling it is that Shields could work with the Diaz brothers so regularly and yet still be so robotic with his striking, and that the Diaz brothers could work with Shields and still be so faulty in their wrestling.
On paper, it’s a match made in heaven for training partners—insane boxers work with insane wrestlers, both sides develop two remarkable skills instead of just one. In reality, it’s become one of the greatest puzzles in MMA.
It’s a puzzle because Shields can take a punch, which is the foundation of that Stockton Slap style that’s become so prominent in the Diaz brothers’ combat approach.
Everyone raves about their hands, but it’s their chins which gives them the chance to be so open and aggressive. From there, it’s all about accurate punches in high volume and a stalking footwork that gets you from point A to point B long enough to dish out punishment.
Trash talk, optional.
Shields also has the cardio to adopt the punches-in-bunches style, and the athleticism to make it work. Any man who has NCAA wrestling titles, a Cesar Gracie black belt and a trophy case of MMA titles is a good athlete, and Shields has all of those things. Why hasn’t he tried to bring such an effective style of striking into his game?
The logical answer is that he continues to be hell bent on taking his man to the ground at all costs. Neither Diaz brother is interested in a ground fight, and as a result, they’re much more free with their hands.
For Shields, he wants to get people down and rough them up, so he needs to be a little more guarded with his standup to be in position to capitalize when a chance to shoot or clinch presents itself. As a result, he relies on slapping kicks from the outside and an underrated jab to set up his takedowns.
It’s hard to argue with that reasoning, because it’s worked for Shields for so long. He’s beaten the likes of Dan Henderson, Carlos Condit, Yushin Okami and Paul Daley, and that’s only a few of the big names on his hit list. But still, it’s hard to understand how a man could spend so much time working with elite strikers and still be so uncomfortable striking.
No one can stick a finger in his chest and tell him what to do, but most fans would probably say that a little bit more Diaz in his game wouldn’t be the end of the world for Jake Shields. He has all the tools to be as explosive and impressive on his feet as his Skrap Pack cohorts, so maybe that’s the thing to look into during training camp for his next tilt.