By FIGHT! contributor Matt Burosh
This week there is more weight on Jake Shields’ shoulders than the 15 pounds that separates his native welterweight division from the middleweight class inhabited by his opponent, “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler.
“I’m giving up a little weight but I’m not too concerned about it,” said Shields. “Robbie’s big and strong, but I’m not that small. I always cut weight down to 170 anyway, so I’m able to actually lift weights and stuff now. I won’t be huge for the weight class, but I won’t be that small either.”
Shields will enter the main event on June 6 riding an impressive 11-fight win streak. Fighters who win build momentum, increasing their purses, and sponsorship money along the way. But one misstep or unimpressive performance can send a fighter tumbling to the under card, where the checks are small and the margin for error even smaller.
Also weighing heavy on the welterweight-turned-middleweight’s mind is the fact that his strength is groundwork while his opponent is a feared brawler. Shields earned one of only three black belts awarded thus far by Cesar Gracie and of his 12 finishes, nine came by way of submission.
“Obviously I’m much more of a ground guy and Robbie’s more of a striker, but it’s not my exact strategy to just [go out there and put it on the ground],” said Shields. ThThat being said though, Shields has also voluntarily joined ranks alongside such fighters as Demian Maia and Dustin Hazelett, saying, “I want to show the world that jiu-jitsu is still relevant for MMA,” thereby adding a certain pressure on himself to perform with such a focused mindset.
Will Lawler prove to be too much for him? Will the weight difference be a factor in the fight? Will his game plan get short circuited by a five-finger takedown? Will the pressure of maintaining a win streak psyche Shields out? We’ll just have to “weight” and see.
For more on Shields, dip into the FIGHT! Mag archives.