Jake Shields is one of the best grapplers in mixed martial arts, and yet he seems to be focused on the idea that he can eventually compete with other great strikers in the welterweight division.
As Shields told HeavyMMA.com Duane Finley:
Working behind top-notch grappling and his “American Jiu-Jitsu,” Shields has made the canvas the last place his opponents want to find themselves. But in order to claim championship gold in the UFC, he knows it is going to take solid striking and the ability to use his standup for transitions. While that portion of his game may not be exactly where he wants it, Shields is confident everything will come together and he will become the UFC welterweight champion.
My striking still has holes, but it has gotten a lot better, Shields said. I am going to continue to work and develop my skills and I believe in the next year I’ll be able to stand with the best strikers out there. I still have a little ways to go, but we have definitely made big improvements.
I came so close to the title and fell short. Now I feel like I’m close again. I’ve beaten the current (interim) champion, Carlos Condit, and Martin Kampmann, who is a top contender right now. I know I can beat these guys, and it all depends on me working my way back up and getting my shot. I’m not sure what’s next, but hopefully the UFC will give me a contender so I can get back up where I want to be.
Much like Demian Maia, Shields is a fighter who seems willing to vacate the powerful skill that got him to the top of the welterweight heap—his world-class grappling—in favor of standing and trading punches with guys who are much better at that aspect of the game.
It's one thing if Shields wants to shore up his striking game so that he can rely on it as a fail-safe if his takedowns aren't working.
That's an admirable thing.
But I'm hoping Shields doesn't completely abandon his grappling game like Maia has in recent years. Shields' striking should never be his go-to in a fight—that honor should always be reserved for his attempts to get the fight to the ground, where he's as deadly as anyone in the sport.
Still, I give Shields kudos for wanting to become a more well-rounded fighter.