UFC 161 Preview: Jake Shields vs. Tyron Woodley Head-to-Toe Breakdown
The UFC is headed back to Canada, where this Saturday, June 16, UFC 161 will go from the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
The event will be headlined by a light heavyweight affair between Rashad Evans and Dan Henderson and will host a total of 10 additional bouts.
A welterweight clash between Jake Shields and Tyron Woodley represents one of the more intriguing pairings among those additional bouts, which is why the match is scheduled to be a part of the event's main card.
Here we will take a look at the Shields vs. Woodley matchup and examine how it is likely to play out. We will assess which fighter has an edge in each of the striking, wrestling and grappling and submission areas of the game and use those assessments to project the probable outcome.
Shields has never been a particularly dangerous stand-up fighter, but he's shown off some improved skills the last couple of times out. Still, "improved" doesn't translate to "great," and he remains a grapple-first mixed martial artist.
But while Shields' striking has always been the weakest part of his game, he has a good chin and has always done fairly well at avoiding damage, both of which are traits that allow him to stick it out on the feet better than he sometimes gets credit for.
Like Shields, Woodley is not a striker by trade. Unlike Shields, Woodley's athleticism and rapid growth have turned him into a legitimate knockout threat, something he proved against Jay Hieron at UFC 156.
The knockout was just the second of his career, so it's too early to call Woodley a great striker, but he's obviously improving. If he continues to develop, he'll really be someone to watch out for at 170.
Both guys have grown, but Woodley's speed and power are things Shields just doesn't have. This is an easy decision.
Shields is well renowned for his submission skills, but it's his ability to get the action to the mat that makes those skills usable. That he has been able to win so often despite wielding sub-par striking for most of his career tells you how valuable his wrestling has been.
When it comes to stopping the takedown, Shields relies as much on his reputation as a submission machine as he does his sprawl. When opponents actually do attempt to bring the action to the mat, Shields employs only average defenses.
Before Woodley gained notoriety for scoring a lightning fast knockout in his UFC debut, he was primarily known for his wrestling skills. Indeed, it has been those skills that have been primarily responsible for his 11-1 record.
Woodley is strong both offensively and defensively, though he's been especially good at stopping opponents from scoring with shots. Continuing to find success in that area of the game will be important to his chances of victory at UFC 161.
Shields doesn't get the credit he deserves as a wrestler, but Woodley still has the advantage here. It will be interesting to see whether he uses that edge to gain top position or avoid the mat as much as possible.
Grappling and Submissions
Shields has the reputation of a great grappler, and that reputation is well-deserved. With over half of his 27 career wins coming via tapout, and an ADCC bronze from 2005 in his trophy case, he is a real threat to anyone when the action hits the ground.
What makes Shields especially dangerous is that he isn't just a submission threat, but a guy who can control opponents for rounds at a time. Combined, his submission and control skills make him someone that no fighter wants to be underneath.
Woodley has shown both a penchant and ability for grappling since starting his MMA career. He isn't as aggressive as Shields in his pursuit of submissions, but he is certainly capable of ending fights on the mat, especially with chokes.
He's also looked superb defensively and has never been defeated nor well-controlled on the ground.
Woodley has proven himself a competent grappler, but Shields is an outstanding one. His best chance at winning this match is to take it to the mat, and if he can get on top, those chances multiply.
The Bottom Line
It's been nearly a year since Shields has competed, so you know he'll be hungry for a win at UFC 161. That's a good thing because aggression will be important to his cause when he takes on Woodley.
While he has made strides as a striker, Shields doesn't want to exchange in this one. What he wants and needs is to procure top-position and work his ground-and-pound and submissions.
It's a tall order, but Shields was once a top welterweight for a reason. If he comes out in top form, he may very well prove capable of controlling the action and shutting down Woodley long enough to earn a stoppage or decision win.
Woodley knocked out Jay Hieron in 36 seconds last time he competed, so he'll probably be eager to work his striking some more. Luckily, what he'll want to do and what he should do are one and the same in this case, as his easiest path to victory comes in keeping things vertical.
That's not to say Woodley should abandon the takedown entirely—he is capable of getting it and will probably be fine so long as he keeps Shields below him—but the focal point of his attack should be striking.
Projected result: Tyron Woodley def. Jake Shields via unanimous decision
A knockout wouldn't surprise me too greatly, but I think Shields at least makes this one close. Woodley's superior quickness and power will be trouble, however, as will his solid takedown defense.
In the end, I anticipate Woodley stuffing as many takedowns as he needs to in order to outpoint Shields for a clear-cut—though not easily won—decision victory.