It wasn’t always pretty, but forced into a stand-up battle against Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 144, Jake Shields bit down on his gumshield and produced a decision victory.
Akiyama did a very good job of stuffing Shields takedown attempts in the opening round, and that allowed him to keep the fight where he wanted to which was in the stand-up battle.
Shields looked awkward as usual in the striking exchanges, but he hung in there nevertheless and while his punches were not effective he did land a number of leg and body kicks and was generally the busier fighter.
Despite having the fight where he wanted it Akiyama was remaining a little too patient and didn’t really put Shields to the sword though his offensive output was clearly the more dangerous of the two men.
In fact Akiyama’s own best moment of the round was a beautiful judo sweep which took Shields clean of his feet, though he wisely opted not to follow the BJJ specialist to the mat.
In the second round there was was more of the same. Akiyama landed a nice spinning backfist at one point, but again it was his takedown defense that impressed most, completely shutting down any thoughts Shields may have had about dominating him on the ground.
Akiyama also used his judo again to great effect with another spectacular throw that will have helped score points with the judges. He was also outmuscling Shields, shrugging him off with ease at times, suggesting that 170lbs is the ideal weight for him.
You have to hand it to Shields though for continuing to plow forward regardless and though he wasn’t landing anything damaging his output was busier and that could be significant if this fight goes the full three rounds. It should be said however that it was Shields who was sporting a bloodied nose by the end of the round.
Into the final round and Shields knew he had to have a big round if he wanted to ensure he got the win in the UFC he’s desperately seeking.
And that’s exactly what he did, putting constant pressure on Akiyama who was starting to slow down by this stage, and in the closing minutes of the round he finally started to make progess in the grappling aspect of the fight, first getting a momentary takedown, and then a little later getting a full takedown, seizing Akiyama’s back and trying hard, though without success to sink in a rear-naked choke.
Time for the judges scorecards and they were not swayed by Akiyama’s hometown advantage or takedowns in the early rounds, declaring Shields the winner by unanimous decision (30-27 x3).
This was a much needed win for Shields and was achieved without having to resort to a purely grappling based strategy which will be pleasing for him.
As for Akiyama, though yet another loss on his record is the last thing he needs he actually did look strong at 170lbs and may get another chance to prove himself in the UFC’s Octagon.