In this series of 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 I hope to uncover the elements Shields possesses that could give GSP the most problems.
Last time I looked at his fight with Yushin Okami from 2006, but this time I'm going to look at a more recent fight and one where he was in a lot of trouble early on before managing to stage an impressive comeback. I am of course talking about his Strikeforce Middleweight title defense against 'Dangerous' Dan Henderson.
I personally believe Jake Shields' "boring" label is a little unwarranted and I have found watching this fight again with a close eye really interesting. Join me after the jump for an in depth breakdown illustrated with animated gifs.
Georges St. Pierre vs Jake Shields coverage
H-Bomb Fallout - Early on in the first round Henderson clips Shields with his patented bomb of a right hand sending him to the mat and looking to finish Shields quickly with ground and pound. Shields covers up but is always moving looking to secure half guard with double under-hooks and keeping his head tucked under Henderson's body. Hendo is able to push on Shields' head and postures up and Shields immediately reaches the inside of Henderson's other leg and weaves his inner leg around and grips tight in what Demian Maia calls the Anaconda Guard or what some might call a form of 50/50 guard. Hendo briefly flirts with the idea of trying a toehold but soon releases. Shields isn't looking to submit Henderson just yet and instead looks to keep control before wrapping his inside arm around Henderson's other leg for an attempted sweep but Hendo is able to remain upright thanks to the close proximity of the cage wall. Henderson momentarily goes to one knee and is able to work his way out. Great composure shown by Shields after being dropped by a notorious fight ender and an active use of guard play early on when a lot of other fighters may at the most have only been able to hold on for dear life when in a similar situation. While GSP doesn't have the power of Henderson he's easily more technical but even if he hurts Shields early on he's going to be incredibly difficult to finish, something the champ hasn't been able to do to a challenger since BJ Penn couldn't come out for the final round in their second bout.
Survival Mode - Back to their feet and Shields isn't out of the woods yet. Shields takes a bad double leg shot and eats a short uppercut and it looks like Henderson might be able to finish what he started earlier. Shields is in pure survival mode constantly moving on his back and covering up, trying to grab hold of Henderson's arms to disrupt his onslaught. He manages to grab and secure Henderson's left arm and eventually his right while still covering up from turtle position before getting back up and wisely covering up as he does so.
Success With A Single - Shields fires a jab and uses it to set up a fast single leg take-down. If you followed the first part in this series I mentioned how Shields wasn't as effective in setting up his take-downs with strikes against Okami but here we see a much better effort. Shields is in closer, the jab connects and he's able to drop his level and penetrate fast and deep to complete the single leg. Not only is his technique better than in the Okami fight but so is his athleticism, a clear mark of evolution in his game.
However Henderson's hips are strong and he's able to rotate them out on the ground into a sprawl before using double under-hooks to get back to his feet. Shields as always will not let go and drives Henderson into the cage but Henderson changes his left under-hook to a head chancery (headlock without the arm in) and is able to turn Shields into the cage from this chancery and wrestling arm-bar position sometimes known as a Half Halch (Lancashire Catch As Catch Can) or Cow Catcher. Shields is still trying to grab for a leg but Henderson has the stronger position and is able to land some knees to the body after briefly flirting with an attempted hip throw, forcing Shields to abandon the leg and defend his torso.
The Single Vs The Crucifix - Shields attempts another bad double after successfully timing and ducking one of Henderson's punches but is thrown off easily. It's a classic mistake in arm position from Shields as he throws his arms around allowing Henderson to catch and block them, instead of shooting his arms straight forward to avoid this. However Shields straight away shoots again this time opting for a single leg. Henderson tries to cross-face but Shields is able to sweep across the mat and keep turning. This isn't quite the same as a Sweep Single Leg take down though some of the mechanics are the same.
Henderson is still on top and in good position and manages to triangle his legs and eventually turn Shields over with what Brazilian Jiu Jitsu calls a back crucifix and in wrestling a form of cross body arm scissors. Something like the back crucifix is always a risk to those committing their all to a Single Leg attempt and I bet Shields had no clue Henderson would even go for something like it. Shields is continually fighting to turn into Henderson as Henderson doesn't have full control of his other arm let alone his head. Hendo lets go of the arm-scissors and switches to an over under lasso grip and tries to shift his hips and get a hook in to secure Shields from the back. Shields continues to fight and turn into Henderson controlling his right leg and driving so he's now in Henderson's guard.
Buzzsaw Guard Passing - From here Shields goes straight into BJJ top game mode and excellently passes Henderson's guard. Shields starts by standing to see if he can easily shake Henderson's guard open before dropping to a knee and making sure the knee is lined up right down the middle between Henderson's hips. Henderson's guard is open and a little loose and Shields is easily able to press down on a leg and step his other leg over and progress to Henderson's half guard. Henderson tries to close his half guard and control Shields' biceps but Shields is able to work his right arm outside and around Henderson's head and arm, allowing him control on the same side of his free leg as well as put some of his weight securely on Henderson almost like a tripod in order to more easily slip out his trapped leg and hip out to pass to side control. Almost immediately Shields puts the knee of his recently free leg on Henderson's belly and slides across keeping his foot tucked in to score mount without going back into Half Guard. Guard passing 101. Shields looks to slide his knees up Henderson's body while opening Hendo's arms up to allow Shields to posture up and ground and pound without being bucked off (as Shields is no longer on Henderson's hips). Henderson's arms being opened is significant as it makes it harder for him to move on bottom to shrimp and regain half guard or guard compared to if his arms were close to his body and the points of his elbows pushing against Shields' thighs. Henderson and Shileds go through constant adjustments on the mat from this position, Henderson looking to squirm and get Shields hips to be over his, and Shields transitioning from a low mount with grape-vines in response before working his way up again to a high mount so he can posture and strike.
At one point Henderson gets half-guard back but Shields is able to pass easily and similarly to before. They end up shifting from mount across the mat until Henderson is against the cage and now he's in trouble as Shields can posture up from a high mount with the fence helping keep Henderson in place.
Shields finishes the round in dominant position but his ground and pound isn't enough to cause referee Big John McCarthy to intervene. Shields ground and pound has often been validly criticised but it's worth considering that this was at a time when no elbows to the head were allowed under Strikeforce's in-house rule policy. Shields passing is very good, but Henderson isn't exactly known for his guard work either since he's usually the one on top. GSP is similarly on top in most of his fights but is leagues ahead of Henderson in skill and ability to work from the bottom if on the rare occasion he's ever put there. If Shields can get GSP to the ground and pass and control it'll be a real testament to his skill and a real shock to everyone watching. Keeping GSP on his back however is no small feat though. Shields is going to have his work cut out for him.
Strikes To Shots - Shields' confidence is clearly at a high after surviving the first round and dominating the second. Despite the dangerous fight ending power in Henderson's strikes it is Shields who is taking the centre of the cage and looking to push forward with Henderson looking for an opportunity to throw a heavy counter.
Shields again sets up his take-down well with his strikes and shoots in fast for another single leg attempt. Like before though Henderson is able to turn his hips on the mat, but also like before Shields is able to muscle Henderson into the cage. A lot was said at the time of this fight, even during the commentary, about Henderson suffering from some back problems as well as not liking to cut weight at his age but it's still impressive to see Shields - a fighter who has never come across as physically imposing - appear as strong or stronger in the clinch, being more in control and dominant in the position then he had been against Okami a few years earlier. Shields looks to pummel in and Henderson uses the opportunity to push Shields off.
Beware The Gutwrench - Shields is a lot more confident with his stand up throwing a good jab and a reasonable leg kick. It's not long before Shields goes for another single leg again changing angles and sweeping his knees along the mat. Henderson has a double over-hook body lock and is looking to gut-wrench Shields over but Shields possibly sensing this wisely moves from side control to back over Henderson's legs to block him doing so. A little scramble and Shields is back in Henderson's guard free of the body lock where he can more safely pass guard. Smart.
Similar to before Shields is almost tripoding and is juggling his legs over Henderson's to progress to half guard and this time he is able to get his outside arm around Henderson's head without an arm in the way. This allows Shields to angle in more and get his weight driving through his sternum towards Henderson's Shoulder which gives him stronger control than just chest-to-chest pressure and stops Henderson turning in to regain full guard. This is important to note as it shows very good technique despite Henderson not being the best off his back. Shields will need perfect technique if he ever has GSP in a similar predicament as he'll likely not get a second chance at it.
Nelsons & Guillotines - Here we see Shields setting Hendo up with ground strikes in order to wrap his arm over Henderson's head and pick his chin with his hand. In Wrestling this is a Half Nelson with a chinstrap and Shields uses the control to help slide to mount from half-guard and control Henderson's head while he attempts to feed his other arm through to secure a mounted guillotine. Shields has a low mount with grapevines but is unable to complete the guillotine likely because of the cumbersome nature of the MMA gloves. It's unfortunate as it does show again Shields making a genuine attempt to finish the fight. He could have attempted a modified neck crank although considering Dan Henderson's toughness to go along with his bull neck it would have been difficult to get a tap.
Super Single Scrambles - This for me was Shields best take down of the fight, even though he was unable to keep Henderson on the ground. Shields timed and ducked a punch, shot in for a single, changed angles and swept along the floor but this time was able to stand, drive and run the pipe. The only downside other than Henderson getting back up was it expended a lot of energy and you can see Shields is fatiguing. This is somewhat worrying as this fight was at Middleweight, and Shields didn't look particularly good returning to Welterweight against Martin Kampmann in a 3 rounder. However I'm sure Shields has been training hard for a 5 round fight with GSP and getting rocked like he did against Henderson in the first round will take a lot out of your endurance which obviously can effect stamina.
Shields shoots again and this next sequence is amusing to me mostly because Henderson locks up a rear crotch hold and turns Shields - who is still holding on like the Vegan Pitbull he is - into a pin. If this were wrestling, Hendo would have just won. Lucky for Shields it isn't and Henderson eventually lets go allowing Shields to turn into him and get a partial take-down before attempting an almost Toreador (Bull Fighter) pass but Henderson is able to regain Half Guard.
Kimura Misdirection - Shields is fighting in Hendo's Half Guard and attempts a 'Kimura' which switches Henderson's focus to his arm allowing Shields to pass to side control. Still attempting the 'Kimura' but with his grip too far up Henderson's arms for sufficient leverage, Hendo is able to power out of the submission attempt but Shields still in control is able to work his way to mount this time with a step over rather than a knee slide. Shields had been strong all round, but this last little sequence and the following ground and pound secured another one for him.
Sub, Sub, Sub! Shields lands another take-down early on and easily passes and transitions to mount much the same way as he has before so there's no need to have another gif showing all of that. For the fifth and final round I'll look at his attempts to finish the fight by submission as he's being let down by ground and pound that's lacking power. Firstly what caught my eye, and it may have been accidental, but Shields appears to be Turking Henderson's leg as he's going for a 'Kimura' and then a straight arm lock. A leg Turk is when a wrestler raises his leg under his opponent's leg to take away hip power and mobility as it can be used to assist in flattening your opponent out. This is why wrestlers often do well in an opponent's half guard such as Brock Lesnar vs Frank Mir 2. Also look back at the Brilz vs Nogueira Judo Chop to see how it was used to shut down Lil Nog's Half Guard game.
A little later Shields sets up the head & arm / arm triangle control and tries to finish with knee on belly. This is one legitimate way of finishing the hold and it allows you to maintain position if it fails. It's legitimate, but difficult unless you get the technique just right.
Finally Shields attempts an armbar to close out the fight but in doing so gives up his position on Henderson who is able to spin with it. It's not a bad strategy to go for a submission with only a few seconds left of the round particularly if you've been dominating the duration thus far, but it still relies on the set up. For all the flack leglock guys get for giving up position to go for a submission, high level BJJ players can be equally as guilty when going for an armbar from mount and falling to their back. The claimed superiority of BJJ to say Catch when boasting Position before Submission is a nonsense when the important aspect in both arts is control. As we can see, Shields went for the armbar without control and scrambled firstly trying to tie up Henderson's arm but not deep enough to transition to an Omoplata / Coil lock, and then onto Henderson's leg to attempt a kneebar. Shields didn't have Henderson's leg deep enough though and a form of toehold would have been a better choice. It didn't matter though as time ran out and Shields had won the decision.
2 Chops down, 1 chop to go. We've seen a noticeable evolution in both skill and physical ability of Jake Shields when comparing the Okami and Henderson fights. We've seen Shields' top notch guard passing game on display though against someone not known for his guard. We've seen Shields have a high level of success with his single leg take-downs and ability to change angles on the mat to finish though not without a continual effort. We've seen Shields attempt to go for submissions, something that along with his tenacity often gets criminally overlooked. We've seen Shields able to muscle around the gorilla strong Dan Henderson in the clinch. And perhaps more importantly we've seen him take a major punch and be able to recover and keep his wits about him; not only that but it didn't cause him to shy away from moving forward to aggressively pursue his take-downs which is certainly the sort of focus he'll need against the super athletic, super talented GSP.
Tomorrow in the final Judo Chop in the series I'll be going back one fight to where Shields was at his closest to being finished against the latest UFC Middleweight signee, Jason "Mayhem" Miller.