What do you get if you go 4-3 with one no-contest in the UFC, suffering your only losses in a title bout against one of the most dominant champions in the history of MMA and in fights against two fellow top contenders? The logical answer would be a continued stay in the world’s top promotion. But money has an odd way of twisting logic. In the case of Jake Shields, it resulted in his dismissal from the UFC. The promotion admitted that he was still a top welterweight, but it also pointed to the significant price tag which accompanied him when it bid adieu to the Cesar Gracie product.
Now, Shields has a new home and a new goal. He has signed with the World Series of Fighting and is ready to kick off his march toward the promotion’s welterweight title, which currently resides around the waist of former UFC fighter Rousimar Palhares. Shields makes his WSOF debut against Ryan Ford, the champion of the promotion’s Canadian branch. Can Shields prove the UFC was wrong to let him slip away? Can Ford seize the opportunity to put his name in the spotlight with an upset win? The answers come on Saturday night at the Edmonton Expo Centre at Northlands in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, when World Series of Fighting hosts its 14th event.
Welterweight contenders Shields and Ford sit atop a lineup that also features a clash between Derrick Mehmen and Smealinho Rama for the the vacant WSOF heavyweight title. Featherweights Chris Horodecki and Luis Huete and middleweights Jared Hamman and Luke Harris round out the four-fight main card.
The evening’s action kicks off on wsof.com at 6 p.m. ET with a six-fight preliminary card. The four-fight main card starts at 9 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports Network.
Just three years ago, Jake Shields was challenging for UFC gold. In an odd move, though one UFC President Dana White attributed to financial reasons, the UFC released the former Strikeforce champion after he lost a single bout following back-to-back wins. The UFC’s loss is the World Series of Fighting’s gain. The promotion scooped up Shields, signing him to a multi-fight deal. Now, he makes his promotional debut against a representative of the Canadian branch of the WSOF, former MFC standout Ryan Ford.
Despite the similar win-loss records of Shields and Ford, Shields will enter this fight as a massive favorite. The two-time NCAA Division II All-American wrestler, one-time ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championships bronze medalist and one-time Pan American champion is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt who likes to take down his opponents and grind out decisions or finish with a submission. He’s done the former 16 times and the latter 10 times. In his 15-year pro career, Shields has defeated the likes of Hayato Sakurai, Yushin Okami, Carlos Condit, Robbie Lawler, Dan Henderson, Tyron Woodley and Demian Maia, and he’s captured championships in Shooto, Rumble on the Rock (a tournament championship), EliteXC and Strikeforce. The Cesar Gracie fighter is not stellar on his feet, but he can usually hold his own long enough to set up a takedown.
Ford is the WSOF Canada welterweight champion. The seven-year veteran has a background in boxing, but he has eight submission victories to go along with 12 finishes via strikes. His biggest weakness, his submission defense, happens to be a particularly bad vulnerability to have when facing Shields. Ford has only lost four times, but three of the defeats came by way of submission. The Bellator and MFC veteran suffered his setbacks against Pat Healy (twice), Douglas Lima and David Hulett. He is riding a six-fight winning streak which includes two Bellator victories.
Ford has a deadly striking attack and a competent offensive ground game. It’s a combination that has helped him pick up wins over the likes of Luis “Sapo” Santos, Kyle Baker, Karo Parisyan, Pete Spratt (twice) and Tommy Speer. However, Ford has fallen short against the absolute best competition he’s faced in Healy and Lima. In comparison, Shields is another step up from two men who have already submitted Ford.
Shields, whose only losses in nearly a decade have come against Georges St-Pierre, Jake Ellenberger and Hector Lombard, may have gone an underwhelming 4-3 with one no-contest inside the UFC, but had it not been for UFC budgetary reasons, he’d still be competing inside the Octagon. Ford hasn’t demonstrated that he can step up in the same manner. Ford’s best chance at victory would be to test Shields’s chin in the opening round, but Shields has faced some thunderous strikers and emerged with his head intact. If Ford can’t knock out Shields, he can expect to spend much of his cage time underneath the grappler. It might not last too long, however, before Shields cinches up a submission.
Shields by second-round submission.
WSOF is ready to crown its inaugural heavyweight champion. The title hopefuls? Derrick Mehmen, a Strikeforce veteran with three wins inside the WSOF cage, and Smealinho Rama, a former MFC heavyweight contender who came up short in his bid to capture that promotion’s top prize.
Rama’s MFC title hopes came to an end when he was laid out via a head kick by Anthony Hamilton in the second round of their championship clash. It’s still the only blemish on the 22-year-old’s otherwise impressive record. “The Prince” has only gone the distance once. He has finished three opponents via TKO, one by way of knockout and three via submission. Rama was a Canadian Division I wrestling champion in college and went 32-0 as a high school wrestler. He has made one appearance with WSOF Canada, and he emerged from the show with the judges’ nod over Steve Mocco. Rama went on to add a win over UFC veteran Tim Hague in his next outing. The victories, which put the young prospect on a two-fight winning streak, help to bolster a record which previously contained just two wins over opponents with winning records.
Mehmen seems to finally be coming into his own after failed stints with WEF, Bellator and Strikeforce in which he combined for just one win over four appearances. His WSOF run has resulted in three wins, including one knockout and two decisions. The “Caveman” has fallen short against the likes of Mike Ciesnolevicz, David Branch, Gareth Joseph, Rodney Wallace and Gian Villante, but he hasn’t lost since 2012. The 29-year-old’s current winning streak, which stands at six fights, includes a knockout of Rolles Gracie and decisions over Scott Barrett and Dave Huckaba. The American Top Team fighter is a two-time conference high school wrestling champion and an NJCAA All-American.
Mehmen has struggled to break through to the next level, but he has seemingly overcome those struggles in his time with the WSOF. Rama does stand as his biggest challenge with the promotion, though. Mehmen has finished 11 of his opponents via strikes, and he has the power to deliver a one-punch knockout. However, Mehmen has only finished three opponents since 2010.
Rama has some glaring flaws in his game. Despite his wrestling background, his takedown attempts are often sloppy and ineffective. Furthermore, Hamilton was able to take him down with ease in their title affair. Rama also tends to keep his hands extremely low and rely on ducking out of the way of incoming strikes, a habit which contributed to his head-kick knockout loss. Mehmen doesn’t throw a lot of kicks, but he mixes looping hooks with jabs in such a way that he could clip Rama. Mehmen is 6-foot-4 and fights tall, which will benefit him tremendously against the 6-foot-tall Rama.
Rama doesn’t have the desire to engage in a ground fight, but striking isn’t always his best approach. Mehmen tends to have better movement on his feet, although he has looked better in that regard as a 205-pounder. He won’t be bullied around by Rama, and he should be able to use his range to land with more frequency and effectiveness than his opponent. Mehmen might not be able to finish Rama, but he should continue his recent trend of outpointing his opponents.
Mehmen by unanimous decision.
Chris Horodecki always conjures up a sense of nostalgia for the old days of the IFL. In that now-defunct promotion, Horodecki was a star. He was still a teenager, but he was winning fights and turning heads as the promotion’s top lightweight. Now, Horodecki is simply seeking consistency. His latest quest comes at featherweight against Luis Huete.
“The Polish Hammer” kicked off his pro career as a 17-year-old in 2005. He won his first 12 fights, including seven in the IFL ring. Although he suffered his first career loss to Ryan Schultz in the IFL, Horodecki managed to move his record to an impressive 14-1 before joining the WEC. That’s where Horodecki began to show the cracks in his game. He lost his promotional debut to Anthony Njokuani via TKO, bounced back with two wins, and then lost to Donald Cerrone. After a win on the regional circuit, the kickboxer joined Bellator and scored just one win in three outings. After two wins and a no-contest on the regional circuit, he again returned to Bellator for his most recent outing against Marlon Sandro. Sandro claimed the decision win. Horodecki has seven wins by some form of knockout and four by way of submission.
Huete fights out of the Elite Training Centre. He’s a submission specialist who relies heavily on the rear-naked choke to finish fights. He has claimed five victories by way of submission, but his most recent win came in the form of a first-round knockout. Huete can be wild in his stand-up, but he packs a lot of power when he lands his punches. On the ground, Huete is a danger to quickly transition to his opponent’s back and attack with his patented rear-naked choke. Huete has claimed victory against a set of opponents who now stand with a career mark of 28-20. He has also been finished by rear-naked choke. The loss came to Diego Wilson, a fighter who now possesses a 6-2 career record. Huete was inactive for five years after the loss, but he returned in 2014 to post three victories within four months.
Horodecki is a very seasoned opponent, and the experience edge between these two fighters is ridiculously in his favor. Huete can be a violent striker, but Horodecki’s more technical approach should allow him to counter the grappler. Huete might seek to take down Horodecki and work for the submission, but the kickboxer has only succumbed to a submission once in his career. Horodecki’s experience, superior striking and ability to defend against submissions on the ground provide him with the recipe to take home a win in this fight.
Horodecki by second-round knockout.
With the recent scrapping of a light heavyweight bout between Misha Cirkunov and Teddy Holder, the middleweight contest between Jared Hamman and Luke Harris moves up to the main card. In a division that features David Branch as champion and Yushin Okami as a top contender, Hamman and Harris are out to make a statement and move one step closer to title contention.
Hamman’s stand-up game carried him to an 11-1 mark through his first two years and change as a pro. It was enough to punch his ticket to the UFC’s Octagon, but his success rate took a nosedive upon his arrival on the big stage. Hamman had the misfortune of competing in his UFC debut against Alexander Gustafsson. Gustafsson scored a 41-second knockout of the striker. It was the start of a disappointing UFC run that saw Hamman emerge with a 2-5 promotional record. He was able to defeat Rodney Wallace and C.B. Dollaway, but came up shorts in fights against Kyle Kingsbury, Costas Philippou, Michael Kuiper and Magnus Cedenblad. The 32-year-old has battled injuries and has only seen action twice since the end of 2011.
Harris is coming off a disappointing showing on The Ultimate Fighter: Nations in which he lost his first fight of the reality-series competition. He hasn’t seen official action since May 2013, when he defeated Jason Zentgraf under the MFC banner. The 37-year-old suffered a huge setback in his previous fight against Joseph Henle, who knocked out Harris in less than two minutes. Harris is a black belt judoka who competed for the Canadian national judo team. He also holds the rank of black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under the tutelage of Robert Drysdale. Harris’s biggest weakness is his chin, but he’s a perfect 10-for-10 in submission victories when he gets his opponent to the mat.
This contest essentially boils down to Harris’s chin versus Hamman’s takedown defense. The question is, which one will give out first?
Harris has suffered two TKO losses, and both came within the opening two minutes of the fight. Toss in his brutal TKO defeat at the hands of Vik Grujic on TUF Nations and we’re talking about a fighter who has been finished off within 120 seconds on three occasions. Hamman is certainly capable of overwhelming opponents with strikes. He even did so against Dollaway, a man who now sits inside the top 10 in the UFC’s middleweight rankings. If Hamman connects early, Harris may end up scrambling to recover before he even has a chance to implement his own offensive strategy. That strategy, of course, consists of putting Hamman on the mat and attacking his arms and neck with submissions. When Harris hasn’t been left reeling from punches, he’s been perfect at utilizing his approach. He’s a quick finisher, too, with all 10 of those victories coming within the first frame.
Given Harris’s history, this fight is likely to end within five minutes regardless of who emerges on the winning side. Harris’s chin is a real problem that’s haunted him throughout his MMA career, whereas Hamman tends to live and die via the knockout—he has just one submission loss on his record. Hamman’s submission loss did come in his most recent outing, which is cause for concern, but Harris is going to have difficulty getting inside to tie up Hamman and take him down. Hamman will stay on the outside and hunt for the big knockout blow. There’s a good chance he finds it by the midway point of the opening stanza.
Hamman by first-round knockout.
|160-pound Catchweight: Stephen Beaumont (7-2) vs. Jose Rodriguez (7-3)||Beaumont by first-round submission|
|HW: Craig Hudson (4-4) vs. Tim Hague (18-9)||Hague by first-round knockout|
|WW: Danny Davis Jr. (10-8-1) vs. Michael Hill (7-2)||Hill by split decision|
|FW: Hakeem Dawodu (2-0) vs. Mike Malott (4-0)||Malott by first-round submission|
|195-pound Catchweight: Matt Baker (10-7) vs. Cody Krahn (15-9)||Krahn by second-round submission|
|LW: Roger Alves (1-1) vs. David Swanson (2-0)||Swanson by unanimous decision|