UFC 129 Preview: Casual Fans Have Yet to Appreciate Jake Shields

Darren WongSenior Analyst IApril 30, 2011

HOLLYWOOD - MARCH 17:  Strikeforce World Middleweight Champion Jake Shields attends the CBS' Strikeforce MMA Fighters Open Media Workout on March 17, 2010 in Hollywood, California.  (Photo by Valerie Macon/Getty Images)
Valerie Macon/Getty Images

The modern casual UFC fan doesn't appreciate Jake Shields.

What the meathead MMA fan wants to see is toe-to-toe brawling, wild scrambles and trash talk.

Shields doesn't bring much of any of those things.

What Shields brings is top notch submission grappling, toughness and an undeniable will to win.

In many fights, Shields' mixture of wrestling and submission grappling is enough to achieve victory, but not always.

The cases where his submission grappling fails him are where his toughness and will shine through.

When Shields got rocked by Dan Henderson, he didn't quit. He could have packed up shop, realized he was in over his head and surrendered. Instead, he weathered the storm and won the last four rounds.

In other performances against Yushin Okami and Martin Kampmann, Jake Shields was forced to dig deep to just edge out controversial decision wins.

Some fans say that Shields should have lost those decisions regardless, Shields has shown his winning spirit over and over, most often against fighters with a far more well-rounded arsenal.

Shields is a throwback to days of specialists like Royce Gracie and Mark Coleman, where a fighter didn't win by being more well-rounded; he won by by implementing his strategy and winning with his martial art.

But if you're a casual fan, you might not appreciate that, and you might not care that Shields is doing what Royce Gracie did 17 years ago, but Shields is doing it against much better fighters than Gracie ever faced.

Even as a hardcore follower of MMA, I occasionally find myself shaking my head at how bad his standup is rather than admiring how well he excellent he is at making other fighters fight his fight.

If he beats St-Pierre, even casual fans may start to recognize that.

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