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Jake Shields defection leaves Strikeforce reeling

Jake Shields‘ recent dominating victory over Dan Henderson has left the Strikeforce middleweight division in disarray and handed even more momentum to the rapidly expanding UFC. It appears that the UFC will be the major beneficiary of Shields’ imminent defection from Strikeforce with Dana White all but confirming his arrival.

Had Henderson defeated Shields in their recent title fight Strikeforce would have been left with a highly marketable middleweight champion because Henderson was not cut from the UFC. The highly regarded MMA veteran was simply unable to agree to the terms of a contract renewal.

Henderson left the UFC on a three fight win streak, knocking out Michael Bisping with a trademark right hand in his final fight with the promotion, which would have made it more difficult for Dana White to denounce him as being a UFC discard. The signing of the former Pride champion could have been a major coup for Strikeforce. Unfortunately, by losing to Shields, Henderson has inadvertently lost the organization a lot of credibility.

One loss does not necessarily spell the end of Henderson’s career but the fact that the man who beat him is on the verge of signing with the UFC is a huge blow for Strikeforce. It sends out a strong message that the best fighters end up in the UFC while the rest find themselves plying their trade elsewhere.

It could have been so different had Shields not recovered dramatically from the one sided beating he received in the opening round. All seemed to be going according to plan for Henderson, and presumably Strikeforce, when he rocked Shields with a devastating right hook early in the fight. Shields never really recovered and it appeared Henderson was about to secure an early stoppage.

Shields’ legs were lost and a comeback simply did not seem on the cards when the bell rang at the end of the first round. To his credit Shields not only regained his composure but he also rapidly gained the upper hand in the fight. For the remaining four rounds he was able to take Henderson down seemingly at will. Not only did Shields secure takedown after takedown, he also kept Henderson on his back for large periods of the fight, doing enough damage to deter the referee from standing them up.

It was a highly impressive performance, particularly given Henderson’s wrestling pedigree. To say that this victory played into Dana White’s hands is something of an understatement. The UFC can now market Shields as the welterweight who was too good for the Strikeforce middleweight division.

The temptation must be to throw Shields in with reigning welterweight champion George St-Pierre straightaway. Such is St-Pierre’s dominance that if Shields were to lose it would not damage his marketability too badly. It would also give the UFC a golden opportunity to disparage their nearest rivals….

‘Our welterweight champion is so good your middleweight champion can’t even beat him.’

The UFC simply cannot lose. In the unlikely event that Shields can actually beats St-Pierre the welterweight division suddenly becomes an interesting place again with a big money rematch on the horizon. If Shields is put in with another welterweight first and fails to emerge victorious, it will make Strikeforce look even worse….

‘Your middleweight champion isn’t even good enough to beat our welterweight contenders.’

It is harsh on Strikeforce whose middleweight division remains relatively strong. Along with Henderson, they have Frank Shamrock, Cung Lee, Scott Smith and welterweight champion Nick Diaz has also been straying into middleweight territory with a couple of recent catchweight bouts.

The pervading assumption is that Strikeforce expected Henderson to beat Shields, just as the bookmakers did. This would have eased the pain of Shield’s departure considerably and would have had the UFC casting covetous glances at Henderson once again.

Instead they are left to pick up the pieces as Jake Shields leaves for the promised land of the UFC with the Strikeforce strap still proudly strung over his shoulder.

The UFC’s stranglehold on the MMA world is so great that they can afford to lose a fighter of the caliber of Henderson; but for MMA promotions, just as MMA fighters, the margins between success and failure are razor thin.

Strikeforce may, at this point in the game, be powerless to prevent the transaction, but exchanging Shields for Henderson represents a bad bit of business for the most prominent pretender to the UFC’s throne.

22 COMMENTS
  • shannonhorn says:

    great article. last word should be “throne” instead of “thrown” but still good article. :)

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  • inkythewinky says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    Weak-Sauce. Thumb up 10 Thumb down 80

  • Lethal Liquid says:

    This is a crippling body blow but not quite a knockout. If Fedor were to leave SF for Zuffa that would be the end of Strikeforce. Jake Shields doesn’t have a huge fan following but his name value puts Coker and company behind the 8-ball. I whole-heartily agree with this being a win-win for the UFC. Henderson looks like damaged goods now Shields stock couldn’t be any higher

    Well-Done. Thumb up 44 Thumb down 4

  • edub says:

    Remember, Dana all but confirmed Fedor was coming to the UFC a year ago. I’m not trying to say that Shields isn’t going to the UFC, but I’m just saying…

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 26 Thumb down 26

  • Niv says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    Weak-Sauce. Thumb up 15 Thumb down 28

  • inkythewinky says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    Weak-Sauce. Thumb up 23 Thumb down 42

  • Angry Mike says:

    Overall this kind of thing is good for MMA, and especially for the fighters. Henderson left UFC because Strikeforce made him a better offer. Shields is leaving, or at least talking about leaving, for the UFC because they’re making him a more attractive offer. Competition is good all the way around.

    Well-Done. Thumb up 32 Thumb down 4

  • moosebaby02 says:

    shields has been rumored to be jumping ship right after he beat Miller for the belt. Everyone new he had one more fight and it was all but confirmed as soon as SF signed Henderson. What do you think Dana was doing when they were taping the Tuff Show while Shields was one of Chucks coach’s. Inkythewinky I do agree that it would be smarter for Shields to stay with SF cause of easier match ups but isnt the goal to test yourself against the best of the world? I dont see Kos, Fitch, Daley, Alves beating Henderson just like i didnt see Shields beating him as well. So he might make me a believer again. I willing to give him that chance at least before i wright him off with the top doggs of the UFC WW.

    Well-Done. Thumb up 14 Thumb down 2

  • egad81 says:

    Shields is so dam boring to watch.

    I hope he goes to the UFC and loses bad!

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 28 Thumb down 21

  • MickeyC says:

    The loss of Sheilds would not kill SF but it would hert them. PR Mostly, they got a guy the ufc didn’t want and then to lose a champ tothe ufc. Talk about a kick in the nuts in reguards to their pride. Who knows if they lose sheilds will other cesar fighters follow? Then Fedor, know you are talking about a death blow. Dana is tthat type of gangster, and zuffa has the $$$$$. I hate to see it happen, but it ,ay be the beginning of the end.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 9 Thumb down 10

  • MickeyC says:

    if they were to lose Diaz and Melendez after Sheilds, then Fedor, it would hurt. Then dana could pick upa few others and almost insure victory. Depending on contract obligations they could pick up fighters like Miller, LAwler, Lashly, and bigfoot relatively cheap if you think about what the reward would be. A few would come runnin to get back to the big show. Dana is low down enough to do it to. Not because he needs the fighters but because he can. Ask Elite XC or Affliction, dana was not directly responsible but he contributed to their deaths. And you know he profited from it. Gangster, he could do it as easy as pulling a trigger. SF DEATH BY EXECUTION. Dana boss of all bosses!

    Well-Done. Thumb up 13 Thumb down 3

  • Makington says:

    Well put moosebaby, I’m on the same boat. He surprised the hell outta me against Henderson. Even though I almost fell asleep, I still give him all the credit for demolishing a legend. At the same time, why would he stay with Strikeforce? The only reason would be easier fights, and that’s not a reason if you’re a true fighter.

    Strikeforce obviously were banking on him losing to Henderson, and that was obvious by how they sold the fight. You’d think Henderson already had the belt and Shields was some nobody. He got zero respect from his promotion and proved them wrong. Now he has a chance to sign with a bigger promotion that will hype the hell out of him, show him the respect he earned, and pay him much more lucrative offers.

    This sounds shallow, and it is, but he’s also a young, single guy, even though he has a kid. He obviously isn’t fighting for the popularity, but I’m sure he doesn’t mind if everyone starts to recognize him and he turns into somewhat of a celebrity, the way GSP can’t go anywhere without every single girl trying to get with him.

    At the end of the day, the absolute only reason for him to stay with SF isn’t much of a reason to a true champ. Every aspect will be better at the UFC, and he won’t have to worry about his weight class only having 6 fighters, or all the drama whether his promotion will still be around in a couple years.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  • MMApride19 says:

    shields has been rumored to be jumping ship right after he beat Miller for the belt. Everyone new he had one more fight and it was all but confirmed as soon as SF signed Henderson. What do you think Dana was doing when they were taping the Tuff Show while Shields was one of Chucks coach’s.Inkythewinky I do agree that it would be smarter for Shields to stay with SF cause of easier match ups but isnt the goal to test yourself against the best of the world? I dont see Kos, Fitch, Daley, Alves beating Henderson just like i didnt see Shields beating him as well. So he might make me a believer again. I willing to give him that chance at least before i wright him off with the top doggs of the UFC WW.  

    I agree totally, i most definetly will not be writing off shields if and most probebly when he comes to the UFC. Although Henderson isnt as good as he used to be, he is still an unbelievably tough fight for any fighter. And Shields (apart from the first round) totally dominated him. I honestly didnt expect to see that at all. The way he recovered so well from the first round really did impress me. And i have to say (other than the minor blip at the end of the fight, but that was more shields corner than him), i have gained a huge amount of respect for him. Im still not a fan of his, and would much rather see GSP walk over him… but iv got a funny feeling that wont happen. I believe Shields will most definetly go to UFC, mainly to compete against the BIG name, GSP. If he wants to prove how good he really is, he needs to compete with that guy… And i believe that probebly is one of his main motivations.

    I am beginning slowly to become a believer of Shields… if he slightly beat Hendo, and it was a close fight, i probebly wouldnt be saying this. But the fact he recovered from HUGE shots, and came back to completely dominate, and out wrestle a great wrestler, and completely destroy Hendo on the ground, i really am starting to sway towards believing he is alot better than i was first led to believe…Anyway we will see when he makes his arrival to the UFC, how good he really is!

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  • thomaswhigham says:

    if round 3 had another 20 seconds he was subbed by miller, and round 1 prolly another 50 seconds he’s done by hendo. that being said, this guy is a monster. if elbows were allowed he’d have made hendo’s face look like, well, how it normally does, swollen and bulging

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  • Creature says:

    Ok im not trying 2 take anything from shields, he dominated hendo theres no denying that, (and thats coming from a huge hendo fan) but.. hendo’s weight cut was a bad 1 and it looked like it was affecting him, i believe hendo will rule SF 205, i have respect 4 shields, but i honestly believe that GSP would completely beat shields down, GSP’s very technical and crisp stand up and unstoppable takedowns w/gnp would be 2 much 4 shields 2 handle, i believe GSP is the real pfp king, if shields goes 2 UFC he should have a test 1st, maybe matt hughes, cuz i dont see kos or fitch losing 2 shields, shields would be top 5 WW but not a champion in UFC, if he can dominate hughes, kos, or fitch then i will give him an honest chance at being UFC WW champ

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

  • moosebaby02 says:

    Ok im not trying 2 take anything from shields, he dominated hendo theres no denying that, (and thats coming from a huge hendo fan) but.. hendo’s weight cut was a bad 1 and it looked like it was affecting him, i believe hendo will rule SF 205, i have respect 4 shields, but i honestly believe that GSP would completely beat shields down, GSP’s very technical and crisp stand up and unstoppable takedowns w/gnp would be 2 much 4 shields 2 handle, i believe GSP is the real pfp king, if shields goes 2 UFC he should have a test 1st, maybe matt hughes, cuz i dont see kos or fitch losing 2 shields, shields would be top 5 WW but not a champion in UFC, if he can dominate hughes, kos, or fitch then i will give him an honest chance at being UFC WW champ  

    im hearing you but i think he will kill Huges. I can see him taking Kos not to sure about fitch that would be a boring match. he will get killed by Alves and GSP will kill him as well. but there are some good match ups for him there to try and get to GSP that i wouldnt mind to see. but thats just me

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  • TerribleT says:

    Fedor is what keeps STRIKEFORCE standing and maybe Nick Diaz accounts for a small portion but if Fedor ever bolted then they might as well board it up and maybe even Fedor isn’t enough to keep them afloat after their last CBS show with every fight going the distance and on the ground I might add. 2 of the fights being 5 rounders……………they probably didn’t bring in any new fans and most likely lost some they already had. IMO it’s just a matter of time B4 the UFC puts them out of business anyway and that’s sux bcuz I was hoping they’d succeed. I’m a true fan of MMA and I want to see MMA flourish bcuz that means more match ups for me o watch not to mention that STRIKEFORCE is on free TV. The bottom line here is: The UFC is a monopoly and they will settle for nothing less than having “No Competition”!!!!

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  • TerribleT says:

    I totally agree! GSP will dominate him,winning every round along the way ’til he wins by decision or stoppage

    Ok im not trying 2 take anything from shields, he dominated hendo theres no denying that, (and thats coming from a huge hendo fan) but.. hendo’s weight cut was a bad 1 and it looked like it was affecting him, i believe hendo will rule SF 205, i have respect 4 shields, but i honestly believe that GSP would completely beat shields down, GSP’s very technical and crisp stand up and unstoppable takedowns w/gnp would be 2 much 4 shields 2 handle, i believe GSP is the real pfp king, if shields goes 2 UFC he should have a test 1st, maybe matt hughes, cuz i dont see kos or fitch losing 2 shields, shields would be top 5 WW but not a champion in UFC, if he can dominate hughes, kos, or fitch then i will give him an honest chance at being UFC WW champ  

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  • LiverPunch says:

    I have to say I’m surprised but I guess if you want to face the best you gotta do what you gotta do. If he does go to SF it will be a blow to SF but let’s face it, Jake doesn’t exactly light the world on fire as far as entertainment value goes. SF will lose one of it’s best fighters but also one of it’s most boring in a way. The UFC is the big winner here though, and I hope to see more good fighters being exchanged rather than the Baroni’s and Kimbo’s of this world.
    The winner of Jacare Vs Villasenor and Lawler Vs Mayhem to face off for the title?

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • LiverPunch says:

    Just to add to Mickeyc that yes the UFC either directly or indirectly killed Affliction, Elite, IFL, Pride etc but from those ashes came Strikeforce, Dream, Bellator, WVR and the list goes on. The UFC will never ever ever be the one and only. As we have seen time after time in modern MMA’s short history. Fighters will always be offered other organisations to fight in. Why? you ask? look at the NBA, NHL and NFL you say? to which I say, show me a big-money fighting organisation (not a governing body) that hold a monopoly over all top fighters. There are none in boxing, Kick boxing, Muay Thai or even pro wrestling. MMA is far more closely associated with other fight sports than any team or league sports you try to compare it to. Fighters do not require a stable week-in week-out comp or even a defined league, just a ring, a set of rules, a governing body, a ref and the opponent. In most, if not all, single participant big-money sports in the world such as golf, tennis, body building, athletics, horse racing etc etc there is no single company that controlls it all. The only examples that I can think of (if indeed they are legit examples) are some types of motor sports and I really don’t consider them valid comparrisons. As MMA grows you will continue to see more and more organisations popping up and more and more power being taken from the likes of Dana White and being given to independant, free ranging individual promotors and fighters. That’s right like boxing and kick boxing. Dana knows it I’ll bet but he will try and stop it for as long as possible whilst filling the pockets of ZUFFA LLC. Look at the way Anderson Silva acted in Abu Dabi. Did that look like Anderson Silva was really that woried about being cut by Dana white? he knows that he is worth big dollars in or out of the UFC, the UFC needs him more than he needs it. Tell me how long will it be before stars such as Lesnar, Silva and Penn have more power than White?. It is in the not too distant future I asure you.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 5

  • inkythewinky says:

    @LiverPunch, Bravo! awesome post!

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  • gsueagle says:

    No one cares if Jake Shields stays or goes. It will not hurt Strikeforce. Most fans think that he is a boring fighter and that he kills the ratings on any show that he is a part of. There are plenty of good Middleweights in Strikeforce> he will not be missed.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

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