As Joe Rogan says, the Diaz brothers’ volume striking attack involves them throwing multiple punches, often without fully committing to them.
"40, 50 percent. Then, suddenly...they slip in a full power shot!"
what if they never threw that power shot?
What if they threw at 40, 30 percent?
What if they never really committed to any punch, making it harder and harder for their opponent to land effective counters? What if they took a weapon that few have ever really tried to master, that of sheer, raw ineffectiveness and honed it and honed it again, to the razor’s edge?
Jake Shields fights are hilarious. Why don’t you like them? What’s wrong with you.
The Inversion King
Due to expectations fostered by a cultural milieu where fights are resolved by hitting shit, and the simple aesthetic fact that kinetic impact looks cool, grappling is not as popular as striking.
Jake fuckin’ Shields is here to single-handedly invert that bitch-ass paradigm. He’s now one of the latest in a long line of wrestlers using his grappling prowess to keep it on the feet. He is a walking, breathing, expectation-subversion metaphor. He is here to show you that despite what you’ve learned - "Real men fight with their fists!" / "Lay-and-pray wrestlers are ruining the sport!"- that stand up fighting can be awful. Awful.
Hell, he doesn’t even peck away at his opponent and then run away like legendary striking chickens Dominic Cruz, Lyoto Machida and Carlos Condit. He stands toe-to-toe with his opponent like a god damn man, bites down on the mouthpiece, and goes to work creating magically abominable interactions of fist and face.
The Tennessee-born fighter has always been a square peg in a round hole. He’d be a little weird as an individual, but he stands out like a sore thumb as a member of the Cesar Gracie crew. He’s dorky and awkward alongside his Stockton homies, with their raised middle fingers and disdain for authority. Making it even weirder is that for all their kvetching about finishing fights and wrestlers ruining the sport, he’s a decision machine who has won countless fights with top control grappling.
Prior to his UFC run, he was considered a pillow fisted wrestler with absolutely hopeless stand-up but an excellent grappling game. All of that changed with his title shot against Georges St. Pierre… and the birth of Lumpinee Shields.
No it didn’t.
But, he has undeniably improved his stand-up, into… well. Something.
Bear in mind. This man is a professional combat sports athlete. He had an 694-fight win streak before he came to the UFC. He beat Dan Henderson! Convincingly! He fought for the title for Christ’s sake.
Yet, time and again, the cage door closes. Shields looks frantically worried, near tears. He steps in, channelling a nerdy kid who’s been told to hit the heavy bag by his overbearing jock dad. His face is scrunched up in equal parts determination, fear, and a terrible, soul-deep knowledge that he’s just not very good at this. And then...
bap bap bap.
The other man generally looks confused, so Shields does it again. He forces himself to reach out, pad his fists lightly against the other fighter’s face, like he’s removing makeup using the back of his gloves.
bap bap bap.
Then, shit yeah, it’s time for some clinching. Shields taps feather-light at his opponent as they jockey for position, maybe hits some knees to the thigh.The clinch is eventually broken, and this time perhaps the opponent crashes a blow through Shields’ guard. He takes off some of the impact, but it clearly hurt.
Shields redoubles his efforts. He doesn’t want to be here, he hates doing this, but he will not give up, will not cry. He throws shots back, perhaps harder, sharper, more powerful than he ever has before.
bap bap bap.
There’s no sense of conviction in the cage. The opponent doesn’t look like he believes that Shields can hurt him. Shields doesn’t look as though he believes Shields can hurt him.
He is the only fighter to ever lose the standup portion of Bully Beatdown.
Frustration and boredom rise like steam off the fans. Dana White is unhappy. Many, many minutes later, the fight is over, and the only people particularly convinced seem to be two of the judges. It’s probably a split decision or something and Shields has won because he hit the other guy more times, kinda. The opponent is angry. The fans are traumatized. Shields still looks pretty worried.
One of the many great things about high level sports is seeing people who are transcendent at what they do. St Pierre and his ability to shut down foes with a few elegant, finely crafted tools. Jones’s creativity. Aldo’s physical clockspring explosiveness.
Jake Shields, in his current incarnation, is transcendentally horrible, and that’s awesome, and something which you should frankly appreciate more than you do. If someone fights him, the chances are that even if the other guy somehow manages to win, the fight is going to be so horrific that he and everyone else will wish that he had just never gotten in the cage in the first place. It is starting to go beyond dull. It’s starting to approach art, or better yet, comedy.
Jon Fitch and Clay Guida were pilloried for being boring, yet given the right matchups (Erik Silva and Ben Henderson respectively, for example), they had thrilling performances. At time of writing, it’s unclear how anyone puts on an exciting fight against Shields, unless they blast him out of the water early like his namesake did. He is simply too good at sucking opponents down into a low damage, uninspiring hell. He is the bland Doctor Weir of the octagon.
The St. Pierre fight at UFC 121 was no doubt greatly changed by Shields clawing GSP’s eye. Regardless, it still ended up being one of those contests which will, together with your Cotes and Hardys and Hominicks, forever be marked down as a "he won but".
In his most recent fight, Tyron Woodley was the physically superior fighter, with infinitely more power and a better wrestling pedigree. Somewhere in the second round, while Shields dabbed tentatively at his foe’s face like a cat at a stream of tapwater, I just started laughing uncontrollably.
There’s something deeply, blackly comic about a man who can take this bloody sport and turn it into something so fundamentally ridiculous, at the highest level and in the premiere organization, no less.
I do understand that it is not everyone’s brand of humour. He is put in what should be intriguing fights and manages, with boggling consistency, to turn them into the pugilistic equivalent of Birdemic or The Room. It’s like watching the Jesus vs Satan boxing match from South Park, but in real life.
October 9th, up against Demian Maia, Shields will step into the cage again, terrified game face on, gloves packed with murderous goosedown.
Everyone likes Maia. He’s one of the genuinely nice guys in MMA, and BJJ experts are fun to watch because they twist other humans into pretzels or juice their heads. He’s passed through the growing pains of his adolescent striking phase, uses what he learned from it to close the distance on his opponents without getting Marquardted. 170 is clearly his optimal weight class, and he now has a relative physicality to go with his superlative grappling technique. As such, Maia is one of the few semi-intriguing potential matchups left for Georges St-Pierre (assuming he beats Johnny Hendricks).
The matchup with Shields could actually be decent. It might become a grappling showcase, where Shields’ wrestling-jiu jitsu hybrid goes head-to-head with Maia’s prodigious ground fighting expertise.
However, it also could very well be... indecent.
If it is, and one of the last GSP challengers is knocked off in Shieldsian fashion, if the story of the fight isn’t one of the ground, but is one of the clinch, and the long slow clock, and bap bap bap... my advice, for the sake of your sanity, is to at least try to see the funny side.
TIPS FOR ENJOYING A JAKE SHIELDS FIGHT
- Watch it with other people
- Try and make sure they are as bro-ey as possible, or at least invested in the fights
- Big up Shields on the walk-in: "Shit son. Jake Shields up in this bitch. See that look in his eyes? Last chance for that other dude to get the fuck out of there. Shields is an animal. Et cetera and so forth."
- React visibly to every Jake Shields punch or knee like prime Foreman is doing the hitting. Saying things like "Jake bringing the god damn thunder tonight!" is recommended.
- When they call the decision, act confident in Shields. If it is a split, act like the judges calling it for the other guy are completely incompetent / blind.
- Extol Shield’s standup virtues post fight.
- Do not break character.
- Do not break a smile.