In April of this year, Jake Shields was the man that felt slighted. At that time, he was the reigning Strikeforce middleweight champion and was reduced to second billing on the card he was fighting on because of the “status” of his opponent, the legendary Dan Henderson.
Shields was motivated by what he perceived as a personal insult, using it to not only defend his title, but to upset Henderson via unanimous decision and walked away looking like a “world beater” in the process.
Coming into UFC 121, much of the hype was rightfully given to the main event fight, in which Cain Velasquez unseated Brock Lesnar as the new face of the UFC heavyweight division. Meanwhile, Jake Shields was the man making his UFC debut and was all but promised a title shot at the welterweight title if he could come through and win his match against Martin Kampmann.
One of MMA’s brightest stars, the 31-year-old Shields was riding a 13-fight unbeaten streak coming into Saturday night’s contest with Kampmann, including recent submission wins over Paul Daley and Robbie Lawler. After his big primetime battle with Henderson, many thought Shields had the opportunity Saturday to make a statement in his debut and use his notoriety to leverage a title shot from a victory.
While Shields had a very strong game plan and utilized his superior grappling for the better part of two rounds to put himself into advantageous positions, Kampmann did more to let this fight slip through his fingers than Shields did to win it. Kampmann had Shields hurt several times, but appeared either unable or unwilling to launch that killer sequence of precision strikes to earn a stoppage or TKO.
Much has been made already about Shield’s difficult weight cut to 170 pounds for the fight and the toll it might have taken on his body. After Kampmann watches the tape of this bout, he’ll see that the match really boiled down to his inability to capitalize on the opportunities to win — and there were plenty. It stands to reason that the thai boxing specialist should have been able to finish the fight off on his feet, utilizing the discipline that has helped him earn seven of his 17 career wins. At three separate times during the fight, Kampmann sprawled one of Shields’ takedowns cleanly, only to get back to his feet. Just when he looked poised to strike, he just didn’t.
Kampmann could have made a statement and established himself as a contender in the division, elevating himself into a top-five position, if he’d taken what Shields was giving him. He could have done to Jake Shields what Jake Shields did to Dan Henderson when he was joining Strikeforce. He could have broken him by neutralizing his strongest skill (wrestling), then using his superior conditioning to earn the win and vault himself into a prominent role in the welterweight division. Instead, Shields was able to grind several takedowns out of Kampmann after he was able to recover and earn the win on the judge’s scorecards.
If there’s any consolation for Kampmann, he showed a massive improvement in his takedown defense, something that will aid him in future fights. That’s only if he’s willing to pull the trigger next time though, something he clearly didn’t do against Shields. He had a striking advantage but was afraid to let his legs and fists fly at UFC 121. If that was because he was concerned about being taken down, we’ll never know, but Saturday night was one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments where the stars aligned for Kampmann and he didn’t see it.
Saturday night, Martin Kampmann had a very big opportunity to make a name for himself at the expense of Jake Shields and didn’t capitalize, and when Kampmann watches this fight back later, he’s going to regret it.
Tags: Brock Lesnar, Brock Lesnar vs. Cain Velasquez, Cain Velasquez, Jake Shields, Martin Kampmann, Mixed Martial Arts, UFC, UFC 121