My friends and I were chatting in the pub the other day, and we got onto the subject of Jake Shields in the UFC. Whilst we all agreed that he was a top class fighter, our opinions became divided when we started to debate on who he could actually beat in the UFC's welterweight division.
The biggest divide in opinions came when we matched Jake Shields v. Jon Fitch, with half of us believing that Shields would win if they fought, and the others vice versa. The arguments for both sides went pretty much as follows:
Jon Fitch -
Superb wrestler, tough as nails. Unanimously considered #2 WW in the world, Fitch has amassed a 12-1 record in the UFC, with his only blip coming from a UD loss to GSP, the current WW champion and pound-for-pound great. As you all recall, Fitch took a beating in that fight, but still kept going. They argued that if GSP's beating couldn't stop Fitch, then Jake Shields won't be able to either. The Fitch supporters also pointed out that he is a huge WW, and unlike Henderson, an absolute fitness machine (here, the others pointed out that Shields had been fighting above his natural weight class, and was thus use to fighting larger, if not stronger, opponents).
The pro-Fitch half of the group thought that with his gritty wrestling-based fighting style, he would be able to take Shield's down, defend against submission attempts and grind out the win (at this point, the others argued that Shields effectively out-wrestled Dan Henderson, one of the best wrestlers in MMA. The retort was that Fitch is not 39 years old).
Jake Shields -
Another superb wrestler and BJJ player in his own right, Shields has been on a tear since 2005, building up 14 consecutive wins against quality opponents. Like Fitch, Shields also showed that he has plenty of heart by surviving an early RIGHT HAND OF DOOM from Dan Henderson and coming back to get the win. The pro-Shields argued that Shield's standup game had also improved dramatically, and this was demonstrated when he used strikes and kicks effectively in his bout against Robbie Lawlor (the counter-argument here was that Fitch has fought better strikers than Shields, such as Thiago Alves, and won).
The pro-Shields half also claimed that Fitch had not been the same since his loss to GSP (I considered this rubbish), and pointed out that Fitch was rocked in the final round of his bout against Mike Pierce, and that he was also almost the victim of a guillotine choke when he fought Paulo Thiago. They reasoned that Shields, with his BJJ skills would either be able to catch Shields in a choke, or work enough to get the decision win.
So there we have it. We will probably see this fight made for real somewhere down the line, but for the moment, I would like to ask you BE folks to kindly help 10 guys sat in a pub solve this debate! What do you guys think, Shields or Fitch?