Defending Claressa Shields

Claressa Shields made her MMA debut last night. In her fight, she took on an experienced Brittney Elkin and, while not perfect, showed some promise. Shields has a resume a mile long. Seriously, check it out:

  • 2012 Olympic Women’s Middleweight Champion
  • 2016 Olympic Women’s Middleweight Champion
  • WBC and IBF World Women’s Super Middleweight Champion
  • WBA, WBC, WBO, and IBF World Women’s Middleweight Champion
  • WBC, WBO, IBF and WBA World Women’s Light Middleweight Champion

Take a breath, it’s a bunch. Now with Shields starting her transition over to MMA, even if she intends to return to boxing, it can be something inspiring to say the least. In a world where YouTubers and MMA fighters want to be boxers and boxers pretend to want to be MMA fighters, Shields is doing the damn thing.

The Imperfection of Claressa Shields

In the boxing world, Claressa Shields has been seemingly invincible. No skill has been up to par to keep it close with the GWOAT in boxing. But the grappling aspect of MMA presented a problem for Shields.

In a world where it’s not common to show weakness, especially in combat sports, Shields did and it was refreshing. Going into the fight, she knew she was going to be at a disadvantage. At the end of the fight in her post fight interview, she knew she lost two rounds. Admitting that isn’t something many modern fighters would admit. And if I’m being honest, Claressa Shields was not who I expected to show humility but she proved me very wrong.

Obviously, Shields needs work on her ground game. Elkin took her down a few times and even though she was in full mount, got high on the guard, giving Shields room to get out the back door. But she didn’t. Shields also engaged on the ground when she shouldn’t have, but that is a game planning issue that is a simple fix.

While Shields likely wants to get better at grappling, and she will with the work ethic she has, but I can’t help but think her game should be tailored more so similar to Cody Garbrandt and Michael Bisping instead of Jon Jones. Look to accent her skills, not create new ones  

The Shining Skills of Shields

Of course, Claressa Shields had fantastic hands. She really showed the difference between a mid-MMA fighter using her hands and a A-list boxer striking. The difference is astounding. The best crossover from boxing to MMA is Holly Holm. Shields hands are light years ahead of Holm’s.

Perhaps the biggest leap brought to MMA by Claressa Shields is her footwork. MMA has notoriously bad footwork. Boxing, on the other hand, demands good footwork to become the best. Shields already shows competence in cutting the cage and using various angles to create openings for her hands. That can pose a huge problem and can come in handy when stopping a takedown. If your feet are good, you’re a step ahead (pun intended) of your opponent.

Keep in mind it was her debut. While you may want to throw her to the wolves and have an Olympian crossover with Kayla Harrison, Shields and her team are smart and will grow her skill set before testing those waters, as she should. Despite the doom and gloom after her first fight, the future is bright for Claressa Shields.

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