“I just want to do the big fights,” said Jake Shields after his first-round submission of No. 2 ranked middleweight Robbie Lawler at Strikeforce on Saturday night. “I think I showed I can fight at both. I bulked up a little for this fight. I’m still moving good. I’m in great shape. I think I can fight at either weight.
“Obviously guys are a little bigger at middleweight, but I feel like I’m faster there, so I’ll fight where ever they want me.”
Talking to MMAWeekly.com on Monday, Shields added, “I felt really comfortable up there. Robbie’s obviously a strong guy, but I didn’t feel overwhelmed by him at all. I definitely could deal with him.”
Having run roughshod over the majority of the welterweight competition in the mixed martial arts world outside of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Shields, currently the No. 4 ranked welterweight fighter in the world, really has no choice but to try his hand in another weight class.
The majority of the 170-pound Top 10 fighters in the world are under contract to the UFC, and that promotion’s resistance to working with other promoters severely limits the opposition for Shields at the top of the class.
Of course, the win over Lawler quickly opened doors for Shields, who wasted no time in capitalizing on his newly found prominence in the middleweight category.
“I want the title. Cung Le’s a good friend of mine, but I think Cung, you either got to give me that belt or you have to step up and fight me,” said Shields, commenting on the Strikeforce middleweight belt. “You’re a great friend of mine, but that belt, I want it.”
Critics of Shields’ move would point out that he appeared to have a lot of trouble with the stand-up game in the fight with Lawler. But then again, that’s never been the strongest part of his game, even at welterweight, not to mention that he’s not the only fighter, welterweight or middleweight, to have trouble standing with Lawler.
“I locked up, but he’s a bull and I realized I didn’t want to try and fight Robbie with power versus power. I got thrown around in the clinch. I felt his power, so I changed my game plan a little bit,” said Shields, intelligently adjusting his strategy to cope with Lawler’s strength. “I went to the outside. I was trying to do a little stand-up and get him throwing on me so I could shoot from there.”
He was eventually able to use what he knows best, his submission game, to lock Lawler up in a guillotine choke that caused the larger man to submit.
If he gets the fight he wants, with Cung Le, he’ll have to count on the same sort of strategy. Le is also larger and stronger than Shields, and much like Lawler, his forte is striking, albeit of a more technical variety.
“I think for me right now, the biggest fight probably would be Cung Le. I have a feeling he’s probably not gonna want to do that, so we’re just gonna have to see what happens.”
Shields next move hasn’t yet been revealed, but he’s already of the mind that he’ll be meeting Lawler in the cage again down the road.
“It was a good fight… I wouldn’t be surprised a few years down the road me and Robbie will meet again. It was just my night.”