A mixed martial arts fighter who decides to try to beat Demian Maia at jiu-jitsu is sort of like a football player opting to try to best Michael Jordan in a slam dunk competition.
It's not wise and it's usually not going to happen.
But Jake Shields, who meets the legendary grappling star Wednesday in Brazil in a key welterweight bout at UFC Fight Night 29, is going to look for opportunities to take the fight to the ground.
The winner is going to be in position for a title shot some time in 2014. If Shields learned anything from UFC champion Georges St-Pierre, it should be to take advantage of a fighter's weaknesses, not his strengths.
Shields may have no chance against Maia in a straight jiu-jitsu competition, but in MMA, he believes his brand of American Jiu-Jitsu will be good enough to win.
He mixes wrestling with his jiu-jitsu and that is something that Maia doesn't normally have to deal with.
"The wrestling element in there is a very important fact, but it's overlooked a lot," Shields said.
The fan base has come a long way in its appreciation of extended ground work, but there remains no question that the crowds far prefer a slugfest than an intense technical ground battle.
Neither Shields nor Maia is known as a superior striker, though they've each taken out top-level strikers.
Shields' signature victory is an April 17, 2010, victory at middleweight over Dan Henderson. But he's also beaten sluggers such as Robbie Lawler and Paul Daley.
There is little chance, though, that Shields and Maia will stand in front of each other and slug. Shields is intrigued by a ground fight, and beating Maia where he is best, in Maia's home country, no less, is going to make a major statement.
One small mistake, Shields knows, and he's going to have a long and disappointing flight home to San Francisco. Maia doesn't have a massive arsenal of jiu-jitsu tricks, but those he does have, he's outstanding with, Shields said.
"He's not really complex and he doesn't do crazy stuff," Shields said. "What he does, though, he does so well and so perfect. I've been watching videos of his fights and paying attention to the details, and it's just the details. You make one mistake and he gets something. … He has the same moves, but he does them perfectly."
So Shields will try to get Maia down and then find a way to submit arguably the finest jiu-jitsu fighter in the UFC, knowing that one false move could lead to a Maia victory.
Part of Shields' interest in going to the ground with Maia is just that, knowing that he's wading into a danger zone. It will keep him more alert and allow him to fight with a heightened awareness that in turn will make him better.
It's all part of his bid to get back to the championship level. Shields had his title shot in the main event of UFC 129, one of the most significant shows in MMA history. The UFC drew over 55,000 to the Rogers Centre in Toronto to see Shields take on St-Pierre for the welterweight title.
Shields was riding a 15-fight, five-and-a-half-year winning streak, but he was totally shut down by St-Pierre.
It wasn't a great performance by Shields, but then again, he was fighting St-Pierre, one of the best who ever set foot in the cage. Still, Shields watched the fight again and saw several opportunities that he didn't take advantage of in the cage.
It's a song sung by many who lose their biggest fights, but if Shields knew then what he knows know, the bout might have played out differently.
"When you look at that fight, let's be honest, you have to start with the fact that Georges is an amazing fighter and not an easy guy to beat," Shields said. "You can't ever think that, 'Oh, it was only what I did wrong.' He is the champion for a reason. He is a great fighter.
"But are there small changes I would make? Certainly. Watching the fight, I saw some holes and things I would do differently. It's definitely a fight I'd like one more shot at."
He's not going to get it, though, without a win over Maia. And even with a win, there are others who are ahead of him. A victory over Maia means something, though, because Maia has won three in a row at welterweight and is looking increasingly like one of the elite 170-pounders in the world.
And so Shields is set to fight Maia with the same passion he'd bring to a title fight, because he understands full well what is at stake.
Fighters who get to the championship level, even if they don't win the belt, are thereafter satisfied to be just one of the guys. Shields certainly is not one of those.
So, even if it means wading into the most dangerous area possible, attacking Maia on the ground, Shields is prepared to do what it takes to win.
"This is a huge fight for me and I get that," he said. "I'm all business right now. All business."
- Sports & Recreation
- Martial Arts
- Jake Shields
- Demian Maia