World boxing champion Claressa Shields officially kicked off her MMA career with a win, beating Brittney Elkin through the third round TKO to close PFL 4 at Oceans Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 2021.
It was not always pretty, but Shields showed her potential as a forward while finding other areas of her game to work on.
Shields got off to a slow start. After chasing Elkin in the first few moments of the first round, she had her takedown defense tested early.
As soon as the former Olympian opened up with her punches, Elkin responded with a takedown that was successful. Shields was able to work his way up to his feet. The second turned out to be trouble for her.
At the start of the second round, Shields had a brief opportunity to open with her hands and it was a glimpse of her potential. Her hand speed was clearly on a different level, but it also demonstrated the need to get better at her grappling.
Win or lose tonight, Shields has a lot to do. Understandably, a lot is missing. She’s still a 0-0 fighter. But to achieve anything in the sport, she has to make an extra investment in grappling training.
She successfully took a takedown but found herself on her back for most of the lap. Even so, she finished the round strong, landing a couple of punches after undoing a submission attempt.
The third round turned out to be the most important for Shields. Even though she dropped the first two rounds, she had a lot of cardio to end the fight. Once she found her own opening on the floor, she went to work drawing the stagnation.
Although Shields was expected to win due to her amazing boxing skills, it is still an impressive feat to see how someone successfully switches to another sport.
That was one of the greatest moments in @PFLMMA’s history.
Claressa Shields showed heart, struggled, and ended the show.
How many boxers are ready to step into a cage? Claressa Shields just did it and made history.
Shields’ MMA debut is an exciting development for the PFL and, on a larger scale, for MMA in general. She’s not just a boxer. She is currently the best woman in boxing with major championships in three weight classes. She’s also a two-time Olympic champion.
So what did we learn? Shields stayed composed, didn’t freak out in bad places. Fast, sharp hands both when standing and on the mat. A bit of wrestling defense when she needed it. Very little grappling awareness. Her general fighting experience and demeanor helped a lot.
While there were a few boxers who switched to MMA and a few mixed martial artists who tried their hand at boxing, in the prime of their careers there wasn’t a champion who made the transition as Shields did.
She’s not giving up boxing, but her foray into MMA is driven by some lofty goals: more money and more fame. The 26-year-old has achieved almost everything that can be achieved in her boxing career, but she has financial and fame goals that only boxing can achieve.
« Women are not paid that much in women’s boxing. I’ve won every title imaginable, every last organization. Three-time world champion in the division, two-time undisputed champion at 154 and 160 [pounds]. I held titles at 168 and it’s like I’m not a millionaire. I’m known around the world, but not a household name yet. «
Right now, Shields is wisely playing things slowly. She’s not enrolled in the PFL’s official regular season format, which means she won’t be against the former Olympic judoka this year Kayla Harrison will fight, but a super fight could be organized down the line.
At this point, the fact that she got locked in and actually won an MMA fight is the first step to a super star career in the MMA.
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Claressa Shields defeated Brittney Elkin by TKO in the 3rd round in her PFL debut
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