“I feel like I am dreaming, because this is crazy!” exclaimed a victorious Claressa Shields on Thursday.
Crazy might be one way to look at Shields’ MMA debut. Suddenly the biggest star on the card with the loss of Anthony Pettis and Lance Palmer, the boxing champion and fledgling mixed martial artist had her coming out party at PFL 4.
It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t always pretty. But when it counted, Shields got the job done. Specifically in the third round, when Shields stuffed a takedown attempt, and began unloading with right hands.
One after another after another hit home. Opponent Brittney Elkin, who had found considerable success with her ground game through the opening two frames, even mounting the boxer, could do nothing but cover up. Shields continued to rain down right hands until the ref had seen enough.
The fight started out on a different note. Within about a minute, Elkin had taken the boxer down. After about 90 seconds or so, Shields got to her knees and powered up. She wouldn’t stay up long. Perhaps foreshadowing the eventual finish, Shields would later wind up throwing punches while in a clinch on her knees. But by the end of the round, she had been mounted, and finished the frame flat on her back.
Sharp right hands from the boxer opened up the second, but once again, she would spend most of the round on her back. Elkin managed even more time in mount in the second frame. What she could not do, however, was find the much-needed submission and finish the fight.
Shields steeled herself heading into the third. “When that third round came, I said ‘I’m about to dog her,” she said following the win. Shields knew she had lost the first two rounds, “but I’m not losing this fight.”
She didn’t, likely ensuring at least a second go in MMA at the very least. The plan all along for the Olympic gold medalist boxer has seemingly been to follow the Kayla Harrison blueprint: take standalone fights, and build experience prior to debuting in the season format. Shields might have to put a little more work in than Harrison from the looks of things, but the potential is there.