In MMA, once you hit the highest levels, your game has to evolve. Whether you’re a grappler or a striking specialist, in order to be successful, you’re only as strong as your weakness.

Jake Shields learned that the hard way as his grappling was not enough to overcome losses to Georges St-Pierre and wasn’t able to help him in a quick and decisive loss to Jake Ellenberger.

Shields went years without a loss—seven to be exact. In that time frame, Shields went from relative nobody to a top welterweight/middleweight. Shields beat fighters like Martin Kampmann, Yushin Okami, Dan Henderson and Carlos Condit.

Then he met St-Pierre and that’s when everything changed for the worst. Seven years going unbeaten and it was gone quickly. St-Pierre picked apart Shields on the feet despite an eye injury and made us all remember that Shields’ striking really wasn’t top level stuff. It wasn’t serviceable for his level in the sport.

Soft punches and poorly executed combos weren’t enough to quiet a hurt St-Pierre and they certainly weren’t enough to dispatch an aggressive Ellenberger who hammered Shields in the main event at UFC Fight Night 25: Shields vs. Ellenberger.

Shields did face some soft competition outside of the UFC, but so does anybody who enters the UFC. In fact, Shields had probably more recognizable and big wins outside the UFC than most people that enter the Octagon. Shields came over after beating Henderson which, that win alone, justified his spot in the welterweight rankings and as a threat to St-Pierre.

Shields is now 1-2 in the UFC with one no contest and at the age of 34, it may be too late for Shields to develop his striking into what he would need to become a welterweight contender again. Shields’ grappling is top notch, but his striking is sub par.

Also, Shields’ age may suggest another thing—he is past his prime. When Shields faces Tyron Woodley at UFC 161, Woodley may prove just that. Woodley himself is a great grappler and his striking is better than Shields’. It may not be the highlight fight of the night, but this fight has a lot riding on it.

A loss sends Shields all the way back to square zero. Not square one, square zero. There would be no chance Shields would make it back to the welterweight title picture this late in the game. Especially if Woodley is able to prove that Shields’ striking isn’t up to snuff. In order to be the best you have to beat the best, and Shields might not have the complete package to do so. Not this late in the game, and a loss to Woodley would be that devastating blow to his career.

Woodley is a great fighter in his own right, but another loss for Shields and his title days will be far over.

Photo: Jake Shields (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

About The Author

Sal DeRose
Staff Writer

Sal hails from New Jersey and is currently training for his first MMA fight. He hopes to use his knowledge and insight to generate articles that interest and entertain you. Outside of MMA, Sal is a big fan of every other sport. He's a diehard New York sports fan, with the exception of cheering for the Packers.