Although the Strikeforce: Nashville event was far from a smashing success with all of the main events going to decisions, some winners careers were catapulted into the upper echelon of Mixed Martial Arts and others had their careers legitimized.
Up until last night Jake Shields was a fighter that many saw and maybe still see as a boring tactician. Another observation many people had or still have is that Jake’s 14-fight winning streak is simply a product of the lack of competition he has been faced with in his career thus far. Jake rarely fights guys ranked within the top 10 and if he does a lot of times they are the perfect stylistic match up for him.
Last night Jake Shields was faced with the toughest test of his career, former Olympian and former Pride FC middleweight and welterweight champion Dan Henderson.
Henderson is not an easy opponent for anybody in mixed martial arts, he is a tough well rounded fighter that can be tough on the ground, standing up and in the clinch.
Henderson has Olympic wrestling credentials and he is one of the few guys to steal a round off of Anderson Silva in the UFC. Henderson also has a vicious right hand, which can be seen on display in his highlight reel knockout of Michael Bisping at UFC 100 last summer.
Henderson’s right hand was on display once again last night on not one, but two occasions. Henderson’s wrestling and powerful hands were what had people stacking the odds in his favour.
In the first round of last night's main event, Shields looked like he had absolutely no business being in the cage with Dan Henderson. Henderson landed two right hands that visibly rocked and knocked down Shields. He followed up with some ground and pound, but failed to capitalize in round one.
Once round one was in the record books, Shields composed himself and took the fight to Dan Henderson, putting on a grappling clinic for the next four rounds en route to retaining his title on the judges’ scorecards.
Shields's victory lacked the spectacular finish, but Shield’s victory over Henderson most certainly was a step in legitimizing himself as one of the top mixed martial artists in the sport. The shots Shields took from Henderson showed the fans that he can come back from adversity and steal the show.
Also, the fact that Shields was able to defeat someone as well rounded as Dan Henderson proved to fight fans and critics alike that Shields can roll with the best.
Maybe seeing Shields roll with the best is what the fans need to see in his fights to come and unfortunately those fights aren’t outside of the UFC. Not many people are going to want to see another rematch with Jason “Mayhem” Miller and after the disrespect Miller showed towards that ring girl at the weigh-ins and then the bar-room brawl he caused inside the cage after Shields’s victory, Miller doesn’t deserve a rematch.
There are some interesting fights for Shields in the UFC at middleweight, Demian Maia comes to mind considering the level of their respective grappling games it would make for a very technical fight. A fight with Marquardt would probably be interesting, to see if Shields can deal with a more technical striker and whether or not Marquardt has developed a sound take down defence.
Finally, a potential matchup with Anderson Silva would be interesting simply because of Shields’ ability to get the fight to the ground, maintain dominant positions and avoid getting submitted. That being said, Shields’ most interesting fight in the UFC probably doesn’t lie in the middleweight division.
Many of Shields’s fights have been in the welterweight divisions of the organizations he has fought for in his career, and he has had as much success at welterweight as he has at middleweight.
Shields is more of a natural welterweight fighter and this is evidenced by the fact that in his last eight fights before fighting at middleweight he finished all of his opponents off. Jake Shields’s best fight in the UFC probably lies in the welterweight division against none other than the current welterweight champion, Georges St. Pierre.
Shields is a very similar fighter to St. Pierre, both have great take downs and an excellent ground game. Georges St. Pierre definitely holds the advantage in the striking department, seeing as how Jake doesn’t have the necessary punching power to be a threat to anyone on their feet or on the ground for that matter.
That being said, Shields is an excellent grappler in his own right and seems to have a stronger submission game than the French Canadian.
Since Georges’s last dominating title defence against Dan Hardy, fans and analysts have stated that he needs a step up in competition. That step up in competition was supposed to happen when Anderson Silva said he would drop down to welterweight and fight St. Pierre after beating Demian Maia.
Unfortunately for Silva, his victory over Maia was as lackluster as they come and along with BJ Penn’s loss to Edgar it puts St. Pierre’s “boring” victory over Hardy into perspective.
In any case, everyone knows Georges’s bread and butter is putting guys on their back and abusing them and if he feels they are dangerous off their backs he will keep the fight standing and abuse them there. Georges is one of the most well-rounded fighters in mixed martial arts and he is an excellent game planner who will fight whereever his opponent has the least chance of beating him.
Luckily for Georges, there aren’t many guys out there who have been able to beat him at his own game. If Georges can dictate where the fight goes, he almost always comes away the victor. Obviously the ideal opponent would be a guy who is as well rounded as he is, but that doesn’t seem to exist.
Clearly Shields isn’t as well rounded as Georges is, but his spectacular combination of wrestling and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is unlike anybody Georges has seen thus far in his career. Shields is a Caesar Gracie black belt, and to anyone who knows anything about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu the Gracie name is as synonymous with the sport as Wayne Gretzky’s name is with hockey.
It isn’t just his Jiu Jitsu that puts Shields above the rest; Jake is a seasoned wrestler having competed in over 600 wrestling matches since the age of nine. Similar to St. Pierre, Jake has never received the wrestling accolades of some of MMA’s best wrestlers, but his excellent take downs and top control seem to say otherwise.
Anybody who has developed their own style of martial arts such as the American Jiu Jitsu Jake teaches at his school in Berkeley is going to be a serious competitor for anyone.
Shields looks to get his opponents to the ground and going up against St. Pierre the game plan wouldn’t be any different. Shields does not have the technical striking nor knockout power to deal with most of the decent strikers in the sport, Georges St. Pierre included. The difference with St. Pierre is that Jake may for the first time in his career be up against a guy who is as good or better than him on the ground.
In any case, this fight would be a great matchup and a big challenge for both fighters, which are two things both of them could use at this point in their respective careers. St. Pierre would look to keep the fight standing and Jake would look to get it to the ground no doubt. Where the fight actually does take place is anybody’s guess.
Can Jake Shields take Georges down and keep him there long enough to work his Jiu Jitsui? Can Georges St. Pierre defend Jake Shields’s takedown attempts and keep the fight standing? These are just some of the questions that would be answered if these two were to square off in what hopefully is the not too distant future.
After Strikeforce: Nashville, Jake Shields isn’t the only Strikeforce fighters people would like to see in the UFC and even though the event was lacklustre and probably hurt Strikeforce in the long run, it is clear that they have some solid fighters on their roster. Fans around the world are probably wondering when the UFC can snap some of these fighters up and Jake Shields is on that list.