It’s not every day that a man is told that his UFC debut is also his opportunity to earn a shot at the World Champion, but then again Jake Shields (25-5; 3KO, 10SUB) is no ordinary UFC debutant. The former EliteXC Welterweight Champion and Strikeforce Middleweight Champion comes into the organization on a fourteen fight win streak, with victories over genuine contenders such as Paul Daley, Yushin Okami and Carlos Condit. Indeed he is coming off a win so impressive that the UFC has made frequent mention of it during their marketing of the fight, with Shields leaving Strikeforce by defeating their marquee signing and former two-weight Pride FC Champion Dan Henderson.
That fight was in many ways the perfect showcase of Shields’ strengths, with the undersized underdog champion showing tremendous resilience to recover from a terrible first round to not only repeatedly take Henderson down but control him on the ground. Shields deservedly won tremendous respect for his performance in April but one cannot ignore two key things. Firstly Henderson was able to destroy Shields standing in the first round and secondly Shields was only able to take Henderson down after the veteran wrestler exhausted himself trying to finish the fight.
It’s these two weaknesses that Martin Kampmann (17-3; 7KO, 6SUB) must zero in on if he’s going to upset Shields’ UFC welcome party. As Paulo Thiago showed by pushing him to the very limits on the ground, Kampmann just doesn’t have the grappling to cope with the Cesar Gracie jiu-jitsu black belt. If Shields can take the fight to the ground than it’s surely as good as over especially as his ground striking will be enhanced by once again being allowed to use elbows. If Kampmann can block the takedown of Shields, not only does he stop the fight going to where Shields is strongest but he keeps the fight where his highly credentialed opponent is weakest. While he lacks knockout power, Kampmann surely has the standing skills to outpoint Shields whose standup is rudimentary at best. In as much any UFC fight is a style vs. style matchup then Jake Shields vs. Martin Kampmann is one. Where the fight takes place will determine who will win.
Being able to get opponents to the ground is something that’s going to be a real problem for Shields, especially as he’s in a division full of high-caliber wrestlers such as Josh Koscheck, Jon Fitch and of course the World Champion George St. Pierre. One can’t help but wonder whether Shields initial preference to debut at 185Ibs wasn’t the smarter move given the relative lack of wrestlers in the middleweight division. However there’s no reason to believe that Martin Kampmann has the takedown defense necessary to stop Shields using his jiu-jitsu to secure his fifteenth consecutive victory and earn a shot at the winner of George St. Pierre vs. Josh Koscheck.
Pick: Jake Shields by Submission (Second Round)
Tags: Jake Shields, Martin Kampmann, Mixed Martial Arts, UFC 121