Do Style Points Count More Than a Record? – The UFC Releases Jake Shields

2010: "He's mine..."; 2014" "He's all yours..."

2010: “He’s mine…”; 2014:” “He’s all yours…”

What a difference four years makes.

News this morning that one-time UFC contender and former Strikeforce middleweight champion Jake Shields has been released by the promotion sent pugilist pundits from the MMA hemisphere of the combat sports world running for their Twitter accounts to voice their immediate reactions.

It’s a tough pill to swallow given that when Jake Shields in on his game, as when he fought Dan Henderson or Mike Pyle in Strikeforce,  his is one of the most smothering and constrictive styles to counter.  However, when Shields isn’t firing on all cylinders, like in the case of his fights against GSP or Hector Lombard, he bears the brunt of criticism from fans and promoters that his style is “boring”.

I’m not convinced that Shields’ lack of style points is the result of his release.  It’s hard to argue that, though, given the fact that other fighters with longer losing streaks and more “exciting” styles have been kept on board for a longer duration (Pat Barry, Leonard Garcia, and Dan Hardy come to mind).

Before his fight against Lombard, Shields hoped to use a spectacular win over Lombard to help him in negotiating a new deal with the UFC, as he only had one fight after UFC 171 left on his contract.  With Shields’ most recent loss, one that was so completely one-sided in Lombard’s favor, does it stand to reason that his UFC 171 performance was enough to leave a really bad taste in the promotion’s mouth, one it would use when it came time to re-negotiate for a new contract?  Or, in the case of Shields just completely cut ties? Perhaps.   Perhaps there’s more than just the surface “boring” accusations, though.

Consider Shields’ time in the promotion outside of his record.  Shields’ wins over Tyron Woodley and Demian Maia are solid wins on paper, but both were split decisions and far from as dominating and comprehensive as his wins over opponents like Dan Henderson and Yoshihiro Akiyama.  Add to the mix the dominating loses to GSP and Jake Ellenberger and a win over Ed Herman that was overturned due to a failed drug test, and suddenly the UFC seems to have a pretty big negotiating stick.  Or at least, it has plausible deniability regarding his release as being a case of the borings.   After all, what if Shields had been consistently as dominate over his UFC opponents as he was over Dan Henderson in Strikeforce or as he was over Akiyama?  Would that change how fans and the promotion view Shields?

When Jake Shields signed with the UFC in 2010, he used big wins over Hendo and Robbie Lawler as leverage to get a very favorable contract.  Could it be that now, at the end of that contract, the UFC felt the juice simply wasn’t worth the squeeze?   It’s all speculative as the fight world hears from Jake Shields, and he’s staying quiet for the moment.

The outrage from MMA analysts over Shields’ release seems more directed at the UFC’s promoter and his penchant for fighters who just bang, bro.  I understand it.  I see the hypocrisy in keeping around fighters on a losing streak and rewarding them, but objectively, I don’t know if this is the only reason Jake Shields found himself on the outs with the UFC.

Here’s the rub: while Jake Shields’ record may not matter to the UFC, the UFC shine may be just what catches the eye of Bellator or the WSOF, with Shields’ winning record coming in a close second (I say Bellator though Bjorn Rebney has a bias against styles like Shields’). Everyone gets used in this situation.  Did the UFC use Jake Shields to help put Strikeforce on its back and to help give GSP’s title reign legitimacy by having GSP fight a top-10 contender?  Yes.  Will Jake Shields use his run in the UFC to help him get a new deal outside of the promotion? Absolutely.

Shields & Lombard stare down before UFC 171

Shields & Lombard stare down before UFC 171

Furthermore, if all of the cosmic tumblers fall into place and Shields signs with someone like the WSOF and ends up running the table (a difficult task considering Palhares, Fitch, and Burkman are all studs at 170), Shields will be right back where this all started, on the arm of Dana White and with a larger price tag for the UFC to pay. It’s cyclical.  Just ask Dan Henderson.

It’s a shame that fight fans will not get to see Shields apply his brand of combat against the likes of Aidan Amagov, Matt Brown, Dong Hyun Kim, or Kelvin Gastelum in the Octagon just yet.  However, it also doesn’t mean he won’t ever be seen inside of the UFC again either.  Fight fans and pundits could take a page from the Jake Shields book of game planning—be patient because persistence and wins cannot be denied.

Unless you’re Ben Askren.

Breakfast Battle Royale (With Cheese)

In non-MMA news, but still fight news, Taco Bell fired shots at McDonald’s, specifically, McDonald’s breakfast menu:

The restaurant (and I use that term in the loosest sense) will take on the breakfast market and McDonald’s breakfast menu specifically.  In Chael Sonnen-like fashion, the innovators of the Doritos Loco Tacos and the Draino of the human digestive system began airing ads over the last few days poking the bear by including testimonies of random people named Ronald McDonald, praising the breakfast menu at Taco Bell as greater than McDonald’s.

When asked for comment, my wife, an avid breakfast fan responded, “I don’t know what we as Americans did to deserve a Taco Bell breakfast menu, but I’m sure we can take it back.”

Much like Alien vs. Predator, whichever company wins in the breakfast one-on-one, we lose.

FIGHT SONGS: AN ALTERNATIVE PLAYLIST FOR FIGHTERS

Jeff Monson enters the cage at Strikeforce: Overreem/Werdum

Jeff Monson runs to the cage at Strikeforce: Overreem/Werdum

When Jeff the Snowman Monson fought Tim Sylvia for the UFC Heavyweight championship at UFC 65 in 2006, Monson entered the cage to John Lennon’s “Imagine.”  I was watching the event at a bar, and everyone sat in silence, mostly because the majority of patrons were craning their necks to hear what the song was.  Hilarity ensured.  To know Monson and his political slant (and general take on life) is to know the song choice isn’t necessarily out of his wheelhouse.  It was a pretty bold choice, actually. It said everything about him even if it wasn’t the most obvious kinetic musical choice conducive to punching an opponent in the face.

For some fighters their musical choice for entrance is their calling card.  Before Jim Miller switched to The Hollies, you could set your clock to the cold open of “Bad Moon Rising” as he came out of the dressing room (he should go back to it, really).  For others, the selection is picked for them if the promotion deems the choice not “bad ass” or “hardcore” enough to capture, psychologically, the toughness it takes to get into the Octagon (sidebar: I think I’d be more intimidated by a friendlier song choice, i.e. Homer Simpson’s entrance to face Drederick Tatum in The Simpsons).  This predilection to be so on the nose about a musical choice that embodies the toughness it takes to get into the cage, leads to some really stale or obvious choices by fighters and the promotion.

To that end, I’m including a list of musical gems that should be adopted, as well as a list of UFC fighters who could benefit from a new playlist, to break up the monotony in entrance jingles, and to make Burt Watson do a small double take as he leads the fighter and his/her camp out to the check in point.

Frank Mir

Previous walkout song: “Amazing” – Kanye West

Recommended walkout song: “Bad MF” – Pharaohe Monch

A newer selection, but it takes a heavyweight with some pretty violent wins to carry the claim the song exemplifies. Plus, to call yourself amazing sets the bar pretty high and sets the expectation to mean flawless.  Calling yourself a Bad MF doesn’t mean you are perfect just someone with whom to be reckoned.

 

Gunnar Nelson

Previous walkout song:  “Leiðin okkar allra” – Hjálmar

Recommended walkout song:  “Stress” – Organized Konfusion

I actually wouldn’t change Gunnar’s walkout music at all.  There’s something calmingly creepy about this choice of song.  It fits his demeanor perfectly.  However, for the sake of juxtaposition, I’d love to see someone who always looks like he just rolled out of bed and without a care in the world come out to a song that’s about stress.

 

Demetrious Johnson

Previous walkout song: “Go Get It” – T.I.

Recommended walkout song:  “Feel Good Hit of the Summer” – Queens of the Stone Age

This song goes hard, sure.  But because of the hypothetical posed by Jordan Breen on the last episode of “Press Row” with guest Jeremy Botter in which Breen suggested DJ could be a cocaine kingpin and still be allowed to fight in the UFC, I couldn’t resist.

 

Khabib Nurmagomedov

Previous walkout music: “You Can’t Stop Me Now” by Bobby Digital

Recommended walkout music: “Bucktown” – Smif-N-Wessun

First of all, I can’t front on Khabib’s previous selection.  However, it seems more like a choice to ride to than fight to.  In order to compliment the head-bobbing feel of the Rza/Bobby Digital choice, I recommend something just as calculating, though a little darker, that could work in his ride or in his walk.

 

Robbie Lawler

Previous walkout music: “Beautiful” – Eminem

Recommended walkout music: “Mr. Saturday Night Special” – Lynard Skynard

Eminem is a go-to choice for a ton of fighters, and it makes sense.  The guy seems to always have the perfect complement of beat, lyrics, and delivery—the kind of balance fighters look for in the cage.  “Beautiful” seems like something you’d listen to for the sake of self-affirmation, and the lyrics really delve into reflection and a journey.  After his showing at UFC 171 and his previous 3 performances, Robbie should not be reflective.  He should be resolute.   He belongs.  As a guy who shows up to fight on PPV Saturday, he deserves a song that punctuates as much as his left hook.

Finally, I’m including a list of general recommendations to make an entrance to, be it the ring, the classroom, or office place.  Though on the next PPV, turn down the volume and play one of the following to see if they work better than what’s being echoed in the area.  I may not bash a fighter’s abilities, but his/her taste in music is fair game.

“Nowhere to Run” – Gravediggaz

 

“Headbanger” – EPMD

 

“War Pigs” – Black Sabbath

 

“Damage” – Blues Explosion

 

“Release Yo Delf” – Method Man

 

“Painkiller” – Judas Priest

 

“Last Caress” – The Misfits

 

“Know Your Rights” – The Clash