On Saturday night, two of the top ten fighters in the world will fight for their division’s world title belt.
A champion, single minded inside the cage, an array of skills but one particular talent that allows the submission to be more deadly than the KO.
The challenger, underappreciated, a bit dull in the media, and not as captivating a personality. Yet, still as good as anyone in the division can be.
Rousimar Palhares defends his WSOF Welterweight Title against Jake Shields in the main event of WSOF Shields vs Palhares AKA World Series of Fighting on NBCSports # We Don’t Know But Let’s Say 85 because that’s a number.
Palhares may be big and strong and can do things many can’t but it is his startling ability to attack with leg locks that allows him to stand out. Whereas the other show has a champion pulling off the same submission time and time again, she is doing it largely against “developing” talent. Palhares has ripped the knees, ankles, toes – anything on the leg – to shreds time and again against some of the best. And like Rousey, he tends to do it quick, fast, and without remorse.
Shields challenges. He challenged for the UFC Welterweight Title and lost. So, now he goes after UFC Jr. As a general rule, Shields tends not to be outmatched on the mat – ever. He’s a world-class pure grappler but an even better MMA grappler. He can take down most, and his smooth transition game belies the sickeningly heavy hips he has when achieving a dominant position. He is methodical, with a ground game based on intellect more than athleticism. His is not speed chess but rather those games which take months and years to complete.
There’s a belief that when two fighters who both excel in the same area of MMA meet that they’ll often end up having a sloppy version of a boxing or grappling match. That is almost assuredly not the case here.
Neither Shields nor Palhares are strikers and they know it. Sheilds hides behind a long jab and distance creating kicks. Palhares throws wild bombs but his stocky frame places him at a physical disadvantage in most striking affairs. Both strike with the goal of keeping the other honest and to set up getting the fight to the ground.
Both grapple, that’s just what they do. No matter who they face inside a cage, their instincts are to go to the mat. I’d expect nothing else on Saturday. The fight will inevitably devolve into Shields on top, looking to avoid non-stop chained together attacks on his legs as he establishes position, lightly hits Palhares with punches even a Floyd Mayweather girlfriend would laugh at, and probably rides things out for a bit.
Neither man is an angel. Palhares is an almost Boo Radley like figure, a simpleton with the ability to crush. Shields is a clean living vegan – who has been popped for using PEDs. But both are legitimate top ten level talents – whether they’re with the UFC or not.
The interest may be on the UFC 190 PPV – and Rousey has that effect on the world so good for her – but the weekend’s most competitive fight is on free TV.