By FIGHT! contributor Josh Nason
Just a few months ago, fans got a dream fight in Georges St-Pierre vs. B.J. Penn. The clash featured two champions from two weight classes; men who can inflict damage in a variety of ways and are damn good at doing so. In the end, the larger man – GSP – was victorious in a near-dominant performance. On June 6, MMA will get another mixed-weight class vs. weight superfight involving two former EliteXC champions when Jake Shields and Robbie Lawler headline Strikeforce’s first major Showtime card.
“Lawler’s a guy I’ve liked watching fight for a while. I wanted to fight him in EliteXC because they didn’t have anyone for me at the 170s. He held the belt and I held a belt, so I wanted to capture both of them,” Shields said. “Unfortunately, it’s not going to be a title fight for either one of us, but it’s still going to be a main event, a superfight and one that I’m really excited for.”
The 27-year-old Lawler (16-4-0-1) was EliteXC’s last middleweight champion, winning the title from Murilo “Ninja” Rua via third-round TKO in September 2007. Lawler has fought twice since then, both times against Scott Smith – the last ending in a TKO victory. Of his 16 wins, the hard-charging Lawler has won 13 by kayo and for he comes into this fight unbeaten in his last six – a streak dating well over two years. But if he expects to cut through his smaller opponent easily he doesn’t admit it.
“I think he’s a really good opponent. He fights at a high level, especially at 170,” Lawler said. “He’s got good takedowns and really good positioning on top. His submissions are really good. It’s going to be a tough fight.”
On paper Shields (22-4-1), EliteXC’s last welterweight champion, is Lawler’s polar opposite. The Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt has won five out of his last six fights by submission and hasn’t dropped a fight since 2004. Lawler has been submitted only twice in his career, while Shields has lost via TKO only once, coming in just his third professional fight.
“It’s pretty obvious it’ll be the submission guy versus the stand-up guy. I’ll want to try to put him on his back and submit him, but I’ve been working a lot on my stand-up. He’s a hard guy to take down, so I have to be comfortable banging with him on my feet as well,” Shields said, adding that a big difference between Lawler and other strikers he has fought is size and his left-handed stance.
Like Penn, Shields is moving up from his ideal weight class but if Shields has his way, the outcome will be different. “It’s going to go a lot different. The small guy is going to go in there and tap out the bigger guy,” Shields said.
Strikeforce: Lawler vs. Shields will be televised live on Showtime at 10 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the West Coast).