Photo from Tom Szczerbowski Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
Jake Shields is not undervalued. Underrated? Maybe. Overlooked? Probably and rightfully. (GSP won't do it, but I'm looking forward to the Anderson Silva fight.) But he's not undervalued -- not by fans, not by the media, and not by the betting public.
Shields has one realistic avenue to victory: submitting Georges St. Pierre. I'd go so far as to say that he has the proverbial "grappler's chance" in this fight. In a straight grappling match, it's fair to say that Shields is more talented than St. Pierre, if not the outright favorite.
But this isn't submission wrestling, and Jake Shields is not a more talented fighter than Georges St. Pierre.
For Shields to push the fight to the floor and submit St. Pierre, he'll need to overcome a mountain of obstacles normally reserved for the bumbling hero in a romantic comedy.
First, he'll have to contend with St. Pierre's ability to control distance. A four-inch reach advantage in his favor will accentuate GSP's abilities.
If Shields figures out a way to manage distance in his favor, he'll have to wade through St. Pierre's superior kickboxing. Shields striking isn't good. It's downright bad for the level of opposition that he's about to stand in front of on Saturday night. Just take a look at this striking during this open workout. If you can't look good hitting the pads, you aren't going to look good trading with Georges St. Pierre.
Should he figure out the distance, should he strike with enough effectiveness, he's now entered level three: taking Georges St. Pierre down. It's a feat that's been managed two times since St. Pierre's loss to Matt Serra at UFC 69, both times by Josh Koscheck. In 23 fights recorded by FightMetric, St. Pierre opponents have completed eight takedowns (two by Ivan Menjivar in GSP's first pro fight). That's less than half a takedown per 15 minutes of cage time.
Even on the floor, though, Shields isn't the submission savant that he's been made out to be. Here's the list of fighters Jake Shields has submitted in the last five years: Robbie Lawler, Paul Daley, Nick Thompson, Mike Pyle, Ido Pariente, Ray Steinbeiss. And here's a sampling of fights who have avoided the submission in that same time frame: Martin Kampmann, Dan Henderson, Jason Miller, Carlos Condit, Yushin Okami, Dave Menne. Do you see the pattern here?
Submitting St. Pierre will have to involve a moment of absolute brilliance on the part of Shields or a shocking display of ineptness on the part of St. Pierre (or the always haunting specter of injury).
Bodog dropped its St. Pierre line to -360 yesterday before bumping it back up to -500 today. You can still find him below -400 at 5Dimes and Pinnacle (for those outside the U.S.), which I love, and there are varying lines between -400 and -500 at various books.
In a line, St. Pierre is far superior than Shields in almost every aspect of MMA, and we're going to see that played out tomorrow night.