There have been some stunning moments when lighter weight fighters move up to face bigger challenges in the sport of MMA. Another big bout made the list on Saturday night in front of 8,867 fans in St. Louis as top ten welterweight Jake Shields moved up to 182 pounds and submitted the No. 2 ranked middleweight in the world in Robbie Lawler.
The bout headlined Saturday’s Strikeforce “Lawler vs. Shields” event.
It appeared early on that Shields was going to struggle in the fight, as he was unable to secure his first takedown attempt when Lawler outmuscled him and kept the match standing.
Shields tried to settle into his stand-up game, throwing some solid body kicks and a few jabs to keep Lawler guessing in the opening part of the round.
A notoriously slow starter, Lawler kept pursuing Shields, but never unloaded any heavy punches, even though it appeared he had his opponent panicked for a moment when he couldn’t land the takedown.
In a sport where the momentum can shift in just seconds, Shields seized his opportunity when Lawler ducked his head down in the clinch. The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt sunk in a tight guillotine choke. Shields wrenched up on the hold, and while Lawler fought valiantly to get out of the choke, it was just too much and he tapped out at just over two minutes into the first round.
“I got a chance to get on his neck, and once I got it, I wasn’t letting go,” Shields said about the submission after the fight.
Losing for the first time since 2006, Lawler showed great respect in defeat, and realized the exact moment that Shields capitalized on his mistake.
“I got an underhook cause I needed to defend his takedowns, and I just put it too deep and he was able to sink the other arm in over the top. I didn’t have a defense for it,” Lawler said. “Once he sunk it on, I couldn’t do anything.”
Picking up his 12th win in a row, Shields was also very respectful towards his Lawler, and considered it a great victory being able to get past him on Saturday night.
“It was an honor to get a chance to fight him, and he’s a great fighter, it just happened to be my night tonight,” Shields commented. “I’m sure a year or two down the road, people are going to want to see the rematch, cause obviously we were setting up for a war, I just happened to catch him. That’s how it goes in this game.”
After dominating the welterweight division during his time with EliteXC, Shields has now opened up a whole new weight class to try and take over, with Strikeforce middleweight champion Cung Le now locked in his crosshairs.
“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. “You’re a great friend of mine, but that belt, I want it.”
Shields will now celebrate with teammate Nick Diaz as both were victorious on Saturday night, and then they will head back to camp to help another Cesar Gracie teammate, Gilbert Melendez, prepare for his August title fight against Josh Thomson.