In this first part of 3 special Judo Chops on the 'American Jiu Jitsu' of Jake Shields leading up to his UFC 129 fight with Georges St. Pierre I'm going to be looking back at some of the key fights in his career against the fighters who gave him the most trouble and how he was able to eventually overcome and beat them by using his blend of Wrestling and BJJ. Rather than write Shields off in a match up with GSP (and let's face it, as long as GSP still fights at Welterweight he's going to be the big favourite no matter who he faces) I hope to uncover the elements Shields possesses that could give GSP the most problems.
First up is his fight with Yushin Okami from 2006, the semi finals of a tournament run by Hawaiian promotion Rumble On The Rock. Shields beat Okami by unanimous decision and would fight and beat Carlos Condit by decision later that night. Let me preface this Judo Chop by stating the obvious: 5 years is a long time for fighters to develop and evolve and in no way do I believe the Okami and Shields of 2006 are the same fighters of 2011. However this match up was interesting to look back on for many reasons. Okami out-sized Shields, was more athletic and had a strong grappling background of his own with a good base in wrestling. This was a middleweight match up and Shields ability to hang in that weight class with some notoriously big guys even 5 years ago should serve him well going into a fight with GSP in terms of not being easy to muscle around.
These Judo Chops are gif heavy so to save the front page from having a seizure, the fun stuff begins after the jump.
Georges St. Pierre vs Jake Shields coverage
Shields began by throwing some rear kicks to show he had been training his stand up in this fight but never used his striking to set up a takedown. Instead after a kick is thrown he pauses before reaching for a double leg takedown telegraphing his intention clearly to Okami. Okami easily sprawls, whizzers and crossfaces Shields turning him around and bringing him back to his feet before clinching with him against the cage. Even in recent fights Shields isn't particularly known for setting up his takedowns with strikes though thankfully he doesn't telegraph them to the same degree.
Shields is at a couple of points able to reverse position against the cage by getting his hips out and rotating but gets turned back against the cage almost as easily. Okami's height makes it difficult for Shields to keep grounded and as a result Shields is more on his toes allowing Okami to move him at will. Fortunately although we've seen GSP use the cage and put his weight on BJ Penn, St Pierre is giving up 2 inches in height to Shields and although he could try to use the cage in this way I don't see it as a strategy that will be implemented by the Canadian. If anything I could see Shields make an attempt at using the cage to both avoid damage and try to take the fight to the ground where he's obviously at his strongest.
This next sequence shows Okami getting a takedown after using his left leg to chop behind Shield's right leg elevating it off the mat and causing Shields weight to shift on the heel of his left foot allowing Okami to drive forward before Shields has a chance to recover. What's interesting is Shields uses a quasi half guard to get his hips to the outside and while feeling Okami continue to pressure into him uses it to help stand back up as he would likely get flattened trying any kind of sweep especially that close to the cage wall. Sometimes the downfall of a Jiu Jitsu player in MMA can come from settling for guard or half guard against a strong wrestler with a solid base which becomes especially problematic if that wrestler can ground and pound without giving up a limb to easily latch on to. A Wrestler's instinct when taken down is usually to go to his belly or turtle so Shields standing back up in this manner would suggest his Jiu Jitsu and Wrestling are working together in this instance.
Shields tries to off balance Okami from the clinch using his underhook to bend Okami towards his overhook side and attempts a similar takedown used against him earlier but then switches to a head-inside single leg attempt. Okami is unable to sprawl because of the cage wall and so lowers and spreads his hips to make it difficult for Shields to complete. Shields has his outside arm wrapped around Okami's leg primarily before wrapping his inside arm around to secure. This shows good technique as the inside arm is needed to post if the opponent does sprawl and so being on top of the outside arm when wrapping allows for quick release. Okami has a partial overhook but it's not deep enough to whizzer so he puts as much of his weight on Shields as he can. Shields attempts to hook his right leg over Okami's but is unable to so instead he uses his knees on the mat to rotate while moving his inside arm to Okami's foot and ankle picks him into a seated position. The advantage is short lived but it shows Shields is able to adjust and adapt in order to complete a takedown rather than just hold on not knowing what to do next. Shields is also relentless with his grip not letting go of Okami and forcing him to work to get out. Even when Okami is back to his feet he eats a couple of shots and Shields is still on him like glue. This is a common theme in Jake Shields fights and it's a good strategy in most cases. Not giving GSP room to breathe and a chance to tee off is going to be a key component to Shields surviving the stand up long enough to get the fight where he wants it.
Here we see Shields do a little better in setting up a takedown with a jab but it's still not quite right. To be successful he really needs to use the jab to draw himself into Okami when pulling his arm back and ideally connect with the jab to start with. Instead Shields uses it to drop his level and without a fast penetration step (which Shields isn't know for) Okami can easily get away.
Shields throws a jab but Okami has started to get his timing and slips the jab following up with a right hook of his own. Okami tries to take advantage of the opening and drops for a takedown but Shields drops as well using his inside arm to overhook a leg. This isn't typically done for a takedown aimed at the legs so its clear Shields has a sweep in mind. Okami tries to control with a rear crotch and overhook but Shields is already rolling and manages to get his hips underneath Okami's. Okami is able to base out and reach for a leg and the scramble continues until both are up, Shields securing a front head lock (arm-in guillotine position) before throwing some knees. Great transitioning between aspects of BJJ and Wrestling.
Both fighters are favouring the use of looping hooks though with not a lot of power present. Okami throws a hook not long after Shields and Shields is able to duck this one but not without a little bit of contact. It's not enough to throw Shields off his game and he shoots in with a lot more drive than any attempts in the previous round. This could well be due to a rise in confidence on the part of Shields after having a round to feel Okami out and get an idea of what can and can't be done against him. Still though, Okami is able to react and get his hips back as well as underhooks and land a knee to the body before spinning out away from the cage wall and pushing Shields away to break free. Even considering Shields is a better fighter today I can see a similar situation occurring against GSP and the real battle taking place in the clinch although GSP is noticeably better at avoiding having his back against the cage when compared to his early UFC fights such as his first encounter with Matt Hughes. If Shields can't close distance and cut off the cage to use the fence as part of his game he could be in for a really rough night in Toronto.
Okami throws a hard body kick and Shields immediately closes to clinch but again it is Okami with a strength and leverage advantage that forces Shields into the fence. Up until this point you could tell Shields had become more confident in his striking until he felt the power of the aforementioned kick. It's worth noting then that he doesn't react badly to being hit but he won't be drawn into a shoot out either.
Also when against the cage even against a guy as strong as Okami, Shields doesn't let his hips get controlled or his back flattened allowing him to maintain the posture necessary to shift his hips and circle out
from the over under clinch. We're now in a similar situation to the first round where Shields drops to a head inside single again trying to use his right leg to hook over Okami's left but again Okami has strong hips and manages to defend well. Despite both fighters being active, referee (and former TUF contestant) Troy Mandaloniz breaks them up.
Okami throws a jab, and then attempts a jab-cross (1-2 combo) but Shields is able to duck the cross and drop for another low single. Instead of just driving forward Shields is constantly turning on the mat while driving to turn Okami's hips over and get him seated on the mat. Once there Shields pops his head outside while maintaining his close grip so he can attempt to move to side control. However without Okami's back on the mat (and he's posting strongly on his outside arm) the pass is going to be difficult to fully achieve. Here a form of cradle could have been useful to keep control of the leg and get the hips off the mat giving Shields a free arm to attack Okami's posting arm.
Shields does not let go however and throws some punches to Okami's body by reaching around his back; a minor irritance but damage can soon accumulate. Shields attempts to control Okami's hips to get him on his back and Okami uses this opportunity to get back to his feet although gives his back in the process. With a rear waist lock Shields drags Okami back down in an almost crab ride manouveur and gets one hook in before Okami can get back up to his feet. Okami fights an over under grip and manages to get the overhook down past his arm to a waist lock before making a figure four grip attempting a 'Kimura' more to break Shields grip as the single hook on the same side would make it difficult for Okami to turn and attempt the submission.
Shields attempts to get his other hook in but it's a mistake with only a waistlock for control and he slides down Okami instead of staying on. To get both hooks on a standing opponent you'll want an over-under control at the least aka a lasso / harness / seatbelt famously used by Marcelo Garcia in submission grappling competitions earning him the nickname "The Human Backpack". Okami is able to turn into him and the single leg attempts resume.
After an easily stuffed, telegraphed shot from Shields Okami is able to get his hips right down from a sprawl due to having enough space behind him. Shields shoots again and is sprawled on and for the first time in the fight pulls guard (bear in mind this promotion allowed knees to the head of a downed opponent). Shields has a closed guard and an overhook that Okami is able to limp arm out of while driving the elbow of his free arm into Shield's breastplate. Shields moves to double wrist control eats a punch and transitions to a single bicep and single wrist control. Okami tries to throw a punch and Shields throws a leg up perhaps hoping he can catch an armbar. Okami's posture is too high and momentarily has Shields back but Shields is able to rotate again bring his legs in to a butterfly guard / elevator control and attempts an arm-in guillotine choke. Shields pulls back but with butterfly guard instead of a closed guard Okami is able to posture and pop his head out. Even when you have Shields back he's always moving and always still in the fight.
Shields went on to fight from half guard with Okami landing shots from on top in between clinching for control. Shields isn't flat on his back but a combination of fatigue and Okami's base means he's unable to sweep or mount any offense. Where previously Shields used a similar position to stand back up, Shields tries to get under Okami and attempt a sweep similar to those found in Deep Half Guard only without the same leg control. Shields tries to rock Okami over rather than work his own hips underneath and he's simply unable to get anything going before returning to a more typical half guard. Taking too much damage on bottom and realising he can't get anything going Shields looks for space to push Okami away with his legs before turning his back in order to stand back up despite the risk that's obviously involved. Shields manages to finish the round with a few flurries from stand up.
So there you have it. A monster Judo chop that's only part 1 but a good introduction to Jake Shields ability to blend his high school wrestling background with his Cesar Gracie Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. What should have stood out is Shields' tenacity in pursuing a takedown, his ability to adjust the takedown and when he does grab hold of someone they will have to fight tooth and nail to make him let go. We all know GSP has superlative take down defense but it'll be interesting to see once he does block a take down how easily he can break free from from Shields' grasp.