Welterweight Jon Fitch will be the first to welcome Jake Shields to the World Series of Fighting. The two veterans will square off in the co-main event of WSOF 11 on July 5. Fitch had been initially scheduled to get a title shot at champion Rousimar Palhares, but the Brazilian withdrew to tend to his mother who requires upcoming surgery.
Fitch and Shields have something in common as they were both former title challengers who were released by the UFC because of their price tags and grinding styles. This matchup has the potential to be a complex ground battle between two fighters hoping to secure a future title shot.
Shields was released after his lopsided decision loss at UFC 171 against Hector Lombard. UFC President Dana White referred to the former Strikeforce champion as being “just another guy” even though it was his first loss in five fights. There is no denying that his Octagon tenure, which included a title fight defeat against Georges St.Pierre at UFC 129, was a disappointment. He went just 4-3 with one no-contest.
Fitch has fought twice already under the WSOF banner after being released by the UFC after a loss to Demian Maia. Fitch was surprisingly submitted by Josh Burkman in just 41 seconds in his promotional debut at WSOF 3. He was able to rebound in his last bout by earning a split-decision victory over Marcelo Alfaya. Going the distance is his calling card as 16 of Fitch’s 25 career victories have come via the judges’ scorecards.
The most notable fight of Fitch’s 18-bout Octagon tenure was a failed title bid against St.Pierre at UFC 87. He holds career victories over Thiago Alves, Diego Sanchez and Erick Silva and fought to a draw against B.J. Penn.
Shields is welcoming the fresh start with WSOF and gets a stiff initial test in his promotional debut. He has a very dangerous ground game with 10 of his 29 career victories coming by way of submission. He possesses elite grappling skills and owns notable victories over Tyron Woodley, Carlos Condit, Robbie Lawler, Dan Henderson and Maia.
With both durable veterans not possessing much of a striking game, Fitch and Shields have combined for eight knockouts in 71 career fights, you can bank on this one being a grappling showcase. It’ll be intriguing to see which fighter can rejuvenate their career with what will undoubtedly be a hard-earned victory.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports.