Jake Shields has been released by the UFC, but what seems like bad news is actually good for all involved – the UFC, Shields and MMA fans at large. Shields, former Strikeforce Middleweight Champion and EliteXC Welterweight Champion, fought eight times in the octagon and once for the welterweight title, and has been considered a title contender since his debut in 2010.
Shields’ last fight was less than a month ago at UFC 171 versus Hector Lombard where he was trounced, but still took the fight to a decision, as he tends to do. Lombard beat him up on the feet, but also dominated the jiu jitsu black belt on the ground. That loss drops Shields’ UFC record to 4-3-1, his draw coming against Ed Herman, which was a decision win but became a no contest after a failed post-fight drug test.
Shields holds wins over the who’s who of prominent welterweights in the world, including current contenders Carlos Condit, Tyron Woodley and Robbie Lawler. The guy is deeply respected inside the cage and out as a fighter of tremendous skill, once holding a 15 fight win streak. He is also an accomplished submission grappler and has coined his style, which is a mix of wrestling and BJJ, American Jiu Jitsu.
So why was Shields, who is such a good competitor, released from the UFC, the best MMA promotion in the world? Three reasons: he’s a boring fighter, he costs a lot, and the current welterweight division is already stacked.
Shields hasn’t finished an opponent inside the cage in nearly five years of professional competition, dating back to his submission of Lawler via guillotine in the Summer of 2009. He also is a relatively reserved guy. He doesn’t run his mouth, he doesn’t call out opponents and he doesn’t hype fights well. He is a martial artist rather than an entertainer, which only works in the UFC if the fighter possesses a dynamic fighting style or is a winner.
Shields likely made $75,000 in his last fight against Lombard, which includes no bonuses for winning or performance, which was more than more interesting and dynamic fighters on the card like Condit and Diego Sanchez. The UFC saves money here on a fighter who is only a draw to hardcore MMA fans.
The welterweight division in the UFC is currently stacked, with a half dozen fighters – Woodley, Rory McDonald, Lombard, Nick Diaz, Matt Brown and Lawler – possessing legitimate arguments why they are next in line for a title shot. Meanwhile former champion Georges St Pierre looms, waiting to return to the cage at the appropriate time. Perhaps never has the 170lb division been this talent-filled.
That’s not to say Shields is not talented enough to play in this division. He is, but he gets lost in mix. Moving to another promotion could do a lot to recapture profile prominence. In terms of style, fight fans should love the idea of a potential match-up with World Series of Fighting Welterweight Champion, Rousimar Palhares. Bellator’s welterweight division is also relatively wide open. Shields could bolster one of the UFC’s rival promotions and make more waves in the MMA world than he can working for the Fertittas and Dana White.
While its always sad to see a truly skilled fighter become undervalued because his style is not flashy, the future is bright. This release benefits the UFC surely, but can also be a positive turning point for Shields and should be good for fight fans in general, as one of the premiere welterweights in the world is now a free agent in the growing MMA world.
Opinion By Matt Stinson
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