Jake Shields has been stopped twice in his career, never by submission. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Jake Shields has been through the wars as a professional mixed martial artist. He has fought 40 times since his debut in October 1999, winning titles in multiple organizations and in multiple weight classes before challenging Georges St. Pierre for the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s 170-pound crown four years ago.
It seems safe to say Shields will not have any jitters when he takes on Rousimar Palhares for the World Series of Fighting welterweight championship in the WSOF 22 headliner on Saturday at The Axis at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.
“My conditioning is great, [and] my training has been great,” Shields told Sherdog.com. “There’s no nervousness at all on my part. I’m just ready to go out there and fight.”
A former champion in Shooto, EliteXC and Strikeforce, Shields earned his shot at Palhares by posting a pair of wins under the WSOF banner. In wake of his release from the UFC in 2014 following a unanimous decision loss to American Top Team’s Hector Lombard, Shields debuted in the World Series of Fighting with a first-round tapout of Ryan Ford at WSOF 14 in October. In that fight, Shields was knocked down early but quickly secured a takedown, achieved back control and locked in a rear-naked choke that forced Ford to submit. The win gave Shields his first finish since a first-round tapout of current UFC welterweight champion Robbie Lawler in Strikeforce in June 2009. The victory over Ford was followed by another first-round submission, as Shields tapped out Brian Foster in a title eliminator at WSOF 17 on Jan. 17. Shields secured a quick takedown, moved to mount and then cinched a neck crank from Foster’s back to get the submission just 2:51 into the match.
The 36-year-old Californian claims his sudden penchant for finishing his fights came about due to his desire to make a point, both to the WSOF roster and his critics.
“I just think in my last two fights I was fully doing the things I could do,” said Shields, a Cesar Gracie protégé who has won four of his last five fights. “In my last two fights, I just wanted to go out there and make a statement. I wanted to finish those fights in the first round, and I did just that. In this fight, my goal isn’t necessarily to finish the fight in the first round but to finish the fight in the first three rounds.”
A longtime Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, Shields wants to stop “Toquinho” for the title, but Palhares has been known and feared for his submission prowess for years. He captured the WSOF championship with an inverted heel hook on Steve Carl in March 2014 and successfully defended it with a 90-second kneebar against American Kickboxing Academy mainstay Jon Fitch in December. Considered by many to be the preeminent leg lock expert in mixed martial arts, Palhares has earned 14 of his 17 pro victories by submission.
Shields, who has never been submitted, said his training camp has not gone too far out of the way to emphasize Palhares’ fondness for leg locks. However, it is a strength he will definitely be aware of come fight night.
“[Palhares] is just leg locks, but he’s one of the best at them,” said Shields, who owns victories over Lawler, Demian Maia, Tyron Woodley, Martin Kampmann, Dan Henderson, Carlos Condit and Paul Daley, among others. “He’s dangerous, strong and explosive. He’s a dangerous opponent. He’s not a fighter you want to lose to because he can hurt you. He’s a Team Nogueira guy, so he’ll be ready.
“When it came to camp, I just did what I do,” he added. “I studied leg locks and positions to try and avoid. There was nothing that different in this camp from my other camps. His style is a little different because it’s rare to see a leg lock guy in MMA, but I did see them in jiu-jitsu. He does things differently, but I understand what he does pretty well.”
Shields, who has 16 decision wins on his ledger and has gone five rounds four times in his career, would not say he wanted to keep the fight standing against Palhares, but he did admit that he wanted to see if the Brazilian could keep a fast pace into the later rounds. Palhares has never fought beyond the third round.
“I definitely want to test his stamina,” Shields said. “You don’t ever want to count on a guy gassing, but this guy is very dangerous in the first round. I’m going to be avoiding his takedowns and leg locks in the first round and then try to start putting pressure on him and see if he can hold up or not.”