Former Strikeforce welterweight champion Jake Shields will fight Demian Maia in the main event at UFC Fight Night 29 tonight.
According to a UFC.com poll, 77.4 percent of voters believe that Maia will win and 52.3 percent of them believe Maia will submit Shields. Of the 22.6 percent who believe Shields will win, 57.5 percent say that Shields will win by decision.
The lack of faith in Shields as a legitimate top guy who can be competitive with Maia shows two things: Even after three years, UFC fans still don’t really know Shields that well and that Shields has fallen far, perception wise, from the days when he was regarded as one of the top welterweights in the world.
Shields coming into the fight as such a major underdog is stunning considering the San Francisco resident’s MMA accomplishments. For those who don’t know and those who need to be reminded, let’s look at five of Shields’ greatest MMA feats.
5. Undefeated for more than five years and 15 straight fights
From 2005 to 2011, Shields went undefeated. Think about that. People talk about Renan Barao and the Jon Jones, but Shields pulled off something special also. And he didn’t fight a bunch of tomato cans. During that amazing run, he beat Paul Daley, Jason “Mayhem” Miller, Yushin Okami, Carlos Condit, Robbie Lawler (by submission) and Dan Henderson. That’s an impressive streak for anyone.
4. Upset Dan Henderson
Strikeforce attempted to feed Shields to the wolves in his last fight before heading to the UFC. Henderson was supposed to come in, KO Shields, and send him packing. It almost happened. Henderson crushed Shields with a right hand in the first round, turning Shields’ lights out. But Shields, running on heart and instinct, after he hit the floor, grabbed Henderson leg and held on until he regained his senses. Once he recovered, it was all youth, skill, stamina and technique — and that meant, all Shields. He stuck to Henderson the rest of the fight, taking him down at will and grappling his way to a decision victory, stunning Strikeforce executives and changing the script live on CBS broadcast television.
3. Submitted Robbie Lawler
Lawler, of course, has been on a tear in the UFC this year, knocking out Josh Koscheck and Bobby Voelker. Lawler’s KOs has fueled a dramatic comeback for the journeyman fighter. If he can beat Rory MacDonald at UFC 167, he will be in line for a Welterweight title shot. But if you want to see Lawler utterly overwhelmed, check out his fight with Shields from 2009 in the player below. Shields closed the distance early to limit Lawler’s power and then leg-checked him and hugged him into helplessness. Then, less than two minutes into the fight, as smooth as milk on Frosted Flakes, Shields sunk a standing guillotine choke on Lawler. Lawler tried to power out of it by slamming Shields to the ground, but Shields held on and Lawler quickly tapped out. Shields totally dominated Lawler in that fight. Shields’ post-fight strut in the cage, arms high in the air, turned out to be the iconic image Showtime used at the end of its intro video package for Strikeforce shows, back when Strikeforced believed in Shields.
2. Submitted Jon Fitch
When it comes to grappling few have been better than Shields. You don’t want to be on the ground with this man. Even the great Georges St-Pierre kept his entire fight with Shields standing, rather than risk going to the mat with Shields. If you want to see Shields put on a showcase, watch the 2007 video that follows, when Shields consumed Fitch on the mat. He never gave Fitch a chance to rest and just dominated him in every position possible before winning with a rear-naked choke. Even Fitch popped up and clapped after Shields released the hold.
1. Took two rounds from Georges St-Pierre
Welterweight champ GSP went about eight fights without losing a round or really being challenged. That changed when he fought Shields. The fight was a bit boring because both fighters highly respected each other. Neither fighter took many risks. And for two guys who are known for being great on the ground, they decided to keep the fight in the stand-up. It was a smart strategy for GSP, who knew that Shields’ weakness is his standup. Still, fighting that style of fight, Shields almost pulled off an upset. He won rounds 4 and 5 on two of the judges’ scorecards. Shields did damage with his strikes (and an accidental eye poke). Had Shields been a better striker, he likely would have upset GSP. Still, he forced GSP to fight an entirely different fight, simply out of fear of and respect for Shields’ ground game. GSP knew that Shields could have submitted him that night had he found himself in the ground.