I realize this article is premature, considering this welterweight championship fight will not be a reality until April 30, 2011.
However, my article, UFC 126: Anderson Silva vs. Vitor Belfort Main Event Prediction, spawned debate regarding the outcome of Georges St-Pierre versus Jake Shields at UFC 129 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Therefore, here is my advanced breakdown of GSP defending his championship title against the No. 1 contender and recent addition to the UFC, Jake Shields.
Jake Shields’ debut at UFC 121 against the Dutch striking specialist, Martin “The Hitman” Kampmann, was less than memorable. Narrowly escaping with a split decision victory, his inaugural fight within the famed octagon left the fans unimpressed and questioning Dana White’s decision to award Shields a title shot against St-Pierre.
Notably, Jake Shields fight versus Martin Kampmann was his first contest within the welterweight division since he battled Paul Daley in Elite XC in October of 2008.
Struggling to drop the necessary weight to come in under the 170 pound ceiling, Shields stated in his post-fight interview that he cut 20 pounds in one day. This drastic drop in body weight was Shields’ unapologetic excuse for his poor performance on the world’s biggest mixed martial arts’ stage.
Vowing to never make that same mistake twice, Jake Shields swore that he will come back stronger for his match up against the current champion, Georges “Rush” St-Pierre.
Earning 15 consecutive victories over the past five years, Jake Shields is the No. 4 welterweight fighter in the world by Sherdog.com.
Shields’ MMA resume is impressive. With a 26-4-1 overall record, Jake has fought in all the world’s major mixed martial arts’ promotions.
Previously in the welterweight division, Shields owns victories over Yushin Okami, Carlos Condit and Paul Daley.
Moving up to a more natural middleweight class, Shields has beaten very talented fighters in the MMA community including Robbie Lawler, Jason Miller and Dan Henderson.
Heralded for his ground skills, Shields is not only a world class wrestler, but he is also a world renowned Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt under Cesar Gracie. Competing in the ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championships, Shields won both a bronze and gold medal for his performance.
Limited in his stand up game, Shields has only three (T)KO victories in 31 total MMA contests.
Earning 23 of his wins by submission or decision, Shields’ fight strategy involves taking his opponent to the ground where he will utilize his relentless ground and pound to employ his masterful jiu-jitsu and attack an opening, forcing a tap out.
This strategy lends the question: “How will Jake Shields’ grappling foundation work against one of the best wrestlers in mixed martial arts in Georges St-Pierre?”
Before I engage in the analytics of this fight, some context is necessary to place GSP’s overall fighting abilities in perspective.
At 21-2-0, Georges is the current UFC welterweight champion and the No. 1 pound for pound fighter on the planet.
Currently with an eight fight win streak, Georges has successfully defended his title on five straight occasions without a loss in the famed octagon since April of 2007.
Extremely athletic, Georges relies on his tremendous conditioning level to compete full throttle for the duration of the fight.
With a black belt in three different martial arts disciplines, including Brazilian jiu-jitsu, St-Pierre is the most balance and well rounded fighters in the world.
With the ability to strike at various angles and levels with a multitude of body parts, Georges is a masterful enigma on his feet. Similar to the legendary boxer Mike Tyson, GSP possesses the innate ability to work inside on his opponents without suffering much damage.
On the contrary, St-Pierre can also challenge outside of the pocket and rely on his excellent jab and various leg kicks to keep his opponent off balance and out of rhythm.
This approach was extremely effective in his lopsided victory over Josh Koscheck at UFC 124.
Not enough can be said about GSP’s stand up wizardry. He is a methodical striker with pinpoint accuracy and head snapping speed. Rarely attacking at the same angle twice, Georges’ striking patterns are nontraditional forcing his opponent to question each move.
Constantly changing his fight plan, Georges is known for beating his opponents at their own games. Outwrestling collegiate all-Americans, outboxing pure strikers and outworking relentless MMA practitioners, there has not been an answer for St-Pierre since Matt Serra’s homerun, overhand right at UFC 69.
Additionally, his envious stand up game opens up St-Pierre’s ability to take down his opponents and unleash a brutal ground and pound assault.
Possessing eight (T)KO victories, Georges has pockets of power and an ever evolving ability to finish his opponents. Recently scrutinized for his inability to finish fights, only eight of GSP’s 23 contests have gone to a decision.
This absurd scrutiny holds no water with this writer. St-Pierre fights the very best in the world. As a former fighter, I guarantee that St-Pierre’s objective is to finish each fight quickly and efficiently; however, if that is not the case, in the end, a win is a win.
And GSP has lost only twice inside the octagon since 2004.
With both fighters’ pedigrees clearly established, who wins this epic welterweight match up?
Wanting to avoid Jake Shields’ take down attempts, the champion will look to keep this fight on his feet where he can capitalize on his striking advantage. Landing 52 percent of his strikes in previous stand up affairs, GSP has had amazing success against some of the world’s best by combining a variety of punches and kicks with tireless movement.
Alternatively, Jake Shields’ forte is his ground attack. This insight is no surprise to the purists. He will be limited in his stand up striking against the dynamic and elusive GSP.
Shields will work diligently to close the distance on St-Pierre and secure a take down.
Avoiding 86 percent of the take down attempts in his fights, Georges is regarded as one of the best wrestlers in MMA. Additionally, GSP has been successful on 78 percent of his take down attempts inside the cage.
Fighting on the ground, St-Pierre has a prolific array of ground and pound landing 41 percent of his strikes on the mat. Georges barrage of elbows have opened up many opportunities for his submission finishes.
If Jake Shields is successful at securing a take down, he will attempt to pass St-Pierre’s guard, damage the champion with his own style of ground and pound and lock up a submission victory to become the new welterweight title holder.
With 10 victories by tap out, Shields’ jiu-jitsu brilliance will be a concern for “Rush.”
In the end, Jake Shields’ is merely a one dimensional fighter with suspect conditioning and limited striking. A solid stand up game opens up the opportunity to take Georges St-Pierre down to the mat initiating Shields’ ground game and a chance at a submission victory.
However, without the ability to attack St-Pierre at various angles and levels, Shields’ take down attempts will not be disguised and rendered ineffective resulting in a desperation scenario for the challenger.
Jake Shields will share in Josh Koscheck’s ominous fate.
Both are tremendous wrestlers with limited stand up skills. Koscheck’s ineffective striking did nothing to deter St-Pierre’s strategy within the octagon. Without the capacity to keep Georges St-Pierre off balance through tactical strikes, a demoralized Josh Koscheck could not secure a take down ultimately losing confidence in his game plan resulting in a significant loss.
When the sweat is wiped and the blood is clotted, Jake Shields’ unbalanced fighting talents will not reward him with St-Pierre’s welterweight title.
Georges St-Pierre is the champion and the No. 1 pound for pound fighter on the planet because no other fighter possesses his rare combination of brilliant stand up dominance with a destructive ground and pound.
St-Pierre will exit UFC 129 still champion leaving the Toronto fans in hysterics cheering for their nation’s icon. This victory will also leave pundits wondering if any man alive at 170 pounds can overthrow the current mixed martial arts’ king.
This wonder will force experts to echo the omnipresent question: “Is it time for the world’s best fighter in Georges St-Pierre to test his talents against a taller, longer, bigger and more lethal striker in Anderson Silva?”
I welcome your comments.
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