Road to Toronto: Jake Shields runs roughshod through EliteXC


Since making his debut in 1999, Jake Shields had slowly but surely made a name for himself in the MMA world.

And he did it all without ever stepping inside the Octagon.

So when upstart Elite Xtreme Combat (EliteXC) decided to make a splash, they did so by hiring some of the best fighters that weren't employed by the UFC.

Of course, Shields was one of them.

Road to Toronto is a special series leading up to UFC 129: "St. Pierre vs. Shields."

We'll take a look at some of the most important moments in the careers of the champion (Georges St. Pierre) and his challenger (Jake Shields), including the ups and the downs and the highs and the lows. We'll examine the instances in time that have helped shape the men that headline this Saturday's (April 30, 2011) card, the biggest in UFC history. 

Today's installment will focus on Shields' four-fight career in EliteXC before the company imploded. In that time he finished all of his opponents, three in the first round.

Not bad for a "lay and pray wrestler."

After his monumental tournament win in Hawaii, Shields went back home to California. He picked up a small fight, defeating his opponent by technical knockout (TKO) in the second round. He fought once for the now-defunct BodogFIGHT promotion and was even a part of the the abomination that was Dynamite!! USA.

That fight is worth noting however as it was the first time Shields would fight on the Showtime network. Those who tuned into the broadcast were treated to the American wrestler easily choking out his opponent in a little over two minutes.

Three months later, he made his EliteXC debut at its second event "Uprising." He faced off against UFC veteran Renato Verissimo. Shields reversed a takedown early and quickly gained full mount on the fourth-degree Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) black belt. From there, a barrage of punches and elbows forced the referee's hand.

Verissimo was a man who took Matt Hughes to a judge's decision at UFC 48: "Payback."

Jake Shields stopped him in four minutes.

At EliteXC's "Renegade" card, the Cesar Gracie student took on "Quicksand" Mike Pyle, a fellow long-time veteran of the sport. Pyle stuffed a takedown early and staggered Shields with a knee. Falling backwards, the former Shooto champion recovered quickly and was able to follow through on his second takedown attempt.

Pyle managed to get back on his feet and landed a nice trip takedown on his opponent but was promptly swept and reversed. Now on bottom, Pyle did all he could to keep Shields from improving his position but the grappling talents of the All-American wrestler were too much to handle.

The Xtreme Couture fighter gives up his back to Shields and is promptly choked out several seconds later.

The fight should have been for the 170-pound title but Pyle had issues with the contract and the belt was taken off the table. Shields would have to fight a "Goat" to earn that honor.

The bout with Nick Thompson at "Unfinished Business" was Shields' biggest stage so far. EliteXC had signed a landmark deal with CBS that brought its brand of MMA into the houses of the masses for the first time in history. Fights on network television were no longer a dream, it had become a reality.

Over 2.5 million people tuned into the event and they all saw Shields absolutely trounce his opponent. Shields immediately shot in and within 20 seconds had full mount. A little over a minute into the bout, Shields' arm was snaked around "Goat's" neck, cutting off his air supply.

Thompson had no choice but to tap out. And just like that, without even breaking a sweat, Jake Shields was the EliteXC welterweight champion.

He only managed to get one defense in before the promotion went belly up. Fortunately for him, the cards he was getting booked on just kept getting bigger and bigger. If two and a half million viewers was a big deal, the four and half who saw his next fight was enormous.

Nearly all those who tuned in did so not for Shields but for Gina Carano and Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson. Carano easily won her bout and the fiasco involving the Kimbo fight partially led to the company's demise. Former UFC champ Andrei Arlovski beat current UFC heavyweight Roy Nelson and "Shogun" Rua's older brother was bested by Benji Radach.

What we were left with was a welterweight title match between Shields and a certain loudmouth Briton with a penchant for breaking the rules.

Let's take a look.

Shields opens up with a leg kick and follows it with a takedown that is stuffed. Paul Daley's takedown defense is on point tonight. He doesn't want to end up with his back on the mat and Shields raining down punches from on top.

Daley is looking to land some body blows but his opponent's wrestling is too much for him and the Briton gets taken down. From there, Shields is pretty much able to transition from position to position with ease. Small punches don't cause any damage but provide a distraction from a potential submission.

And that's exactly what the champ intends to do. He attempts an armbar but can't get it latched on and Daley escapes. The challenger ends up in his opponent's guard and delivers some elbows to end the round.

Daley controls the opening minute of the second. His stand-up is clearly better than Shields. After being backed into the corner, the American shoots in for a takedown but is stuffed.

Another takedown attempt is nullified by Daley. As much as Shields doesn't want to stand and bang with the Englishman, Daley equally refuses to allow the fight to hit the mat. The wrestler is finally able to close the distance, accepting the threat of a trademark Daley knockout.

Shields is able hold onto his opponent with a bodylock and drags him to the mat, landing in full mount. The sound of the American's leather-covered fists smacking against Daley's head echo through the arena. The Cage Rage veteran isn't putting up much in terms of offense.

Daley puts his hands in front of his face to avoid the barrage not realizing that doing that around a season BJJ player is a huge mistake. Shields grabs onto on the arms, spins around, and forces a tap seconds later.

Four opponents, four finishes. That's Jake Shields' legacy in EliteXC. Two weeks after his title defense, the promotion's parent company announced it was ceasing operations. The aforementioned Kimbo fiasco had crippled the company and they were a sinking ship.

But it turns out another organization from California was starting to make some noise.

Tomorrow: A bigger Jake Shields makes his way to Strikeforce after EliteXC falls apart.

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