The UFC made the controversial decision to release No. 11 ranked welterweight Jake Shields on Monday. Shields had just lost a decision to Hector Lombard, but had beaten UFC contenders Demian Maia and Tyron Woodley in his two previous fights.
According to Trent Reinsmith of Bloody Elbow, Shields' manager Lex McMahon commented on the cut by saying, "To lose one fight and then all of a sudden be out of a job was something that I believe was surprising and not contemplated."
While Shields has had a long and successful career up to this point, he has been much maligned for his "boring" style of fighting—which features a lot of position control, particularly when he is on top of his opponent.
The UFC Won't Put Up with Boring Fighters
The UFC showed once again that they want exciting fights, first and foremost. There is no rational argument that could say that Shields does not deserve to be in the UFC based on his resume. Shields' recent wins over Maia and Woodley prove that.
However, Shields was never an exciting fighter. He was not the type of fighter that you would buy a pay-per-view for. Shields had that suffocating top control and persistent wrestling that made him very successful, but—quite frankly—pretty boring.
Shields' style was a type that only a few hardcore grappling fans could appreciate. It takes a high level of knowledge to appreciate the way that Shields holds down and positionally dominates professional mixed martial artists. This type of style is fine for a fighter, but they have to look to finish. Too often, Shields was in dominate positions in fights and failed to capitalize. Shields used beautiful grappling to get take downs and pass the guard, but that's where it ended.
Once Shields started to show that he was not a top-five fighter anymore, it was easy for the UFC to decide that the he was not worth the trouble.
The UFC showed that it doesn't tolerate boring fighters—no matter how talented—by releasing other so-called boring fighters like Jon Fitch and Yushin Okami. Shields was just another name to add to this list.
Shields Can Still Be Involved in Important Fights
Just because Shields is not under the UFC banner anymore doesn't mean he wont be able to put on meaningful fights. Shields still can fight a myriad of talented and up-and-coming fighters.
Shields can go fight against Ben Askren in OneFC and give Askren the meaningful competition that Dana White believes Askren needs.
A fight between Shields and Askren would definitely be an enticing matchup, especially in the grappling aspects.
Or maybe Shields can go to WSOF and test his skills against another UFC cast-off in Jon Fitch or the leg lock assassin Rousimar Palhares. While the fight with Fitch may seem to be a boring match of two subpar strikers with above average wrestling skills, the Palhares fight would be a fascinating matchup. It would be Shields and his position dominating grappling versus the ultra-aggressive, submission-centric grappling of Palhares.
The Palhares fight would be one of the biggest fights any promotion outside of the UFC could make. Palhares has the style of grappling that could lead to a very crowd-pleasing fight for Shields. The only question is whether WSOF could sign Shields and make the fight happen.
No matter which way Shields decides to go, he will have the opportunity to compete in meaningful fights.
Shields Has Almost No Shot to Get back into the UFC
Shields is a 35-year-old fighter with a style that often bores the audience. That is not a good recipe for a fighter to get back in the UFC. Shields is on the downside of his career, and it is very unlikely that he could reinvent himself into an aggressive fighter.
Shields has been in MMA since 1999 and still has a very average striking game, so it doesn’t seem like he could become an effective striker any time soon.
Shields' only hope to become a more entertaining fighter is to take more risks while on top. He needs to attack for submissions more, which might leave himself a little more vulnerable than in the past.
However, that is very unlikely. Therefore, because of his age and skill set, it is unlikely we will see Shields fighting in the octagon ever again.