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World champion boxer Claressa Shields officially kicked off her MMA career with a win, beating Brittney Elkin by third-round TKO to close out 2021 PFL 4 from Oceans Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
It wasn’t always pretty, but Shields showcased her potential as a striker while finding some other areas of her game to work on.
Shields got off to a slow start. After stalking Elkin in the early moments of the first round, she had her takedown defense tested early.
As soon as the former Olympian opened up with her strikes, Elkin reacted with a takedown which was successful. Shields was able to work her way up to the feet on that one. The second one, turned out to be trouble for her.
Elkin got to mount and was active in looking for the upset with several strikes.
Elkin unloads with 30 seconds left in round 1!
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At the beginning of Round 2, Shields had a brief opportunity to open up with her hands and it was a glimpse of her potential. Her hand speed was clearly on another level but it also highlighted the need for her grappling to get better.
Luke Thomas @lthomasnews
Win or lose tonight, Shields has a lot of grappling work to do. Understandably, there’s a lot missing. She’s still a 0-0 fighter. But to get anywhere in this sport, she’s going to have to make an extra investment in grappling training.
She sprawled one takedown successfully, but then found herself on her back for most of the round again. Still, she ended the round strong, landing a few punches after reversing a submission attempt.
The third round proved to be the most important for Shields. Despite dropping the first two rounds, she had plenty of cardio to finish the fight. As soon as she found an opening of her own on the ground she went to work drawing the stoppage.
IT’S ALL OVER!!! CLARESSA SHIELDS IS HERE TO STAY!
While it was expected that Shields would win based on her prodigious boxing skills, it’s still an impressive feat to watch someone successfully cross over to another sport.
MMA History Today @MMAHistoryToday
That was one of the biggest moments in @PFLMMA history.
Claressa Shields showed heart, battled back, and closed the show.
How many boxers are willing to step into a cage? Claressa Shields just did and made history.
Shields’ MMA debut is an exciting development for the PFL and, on a larger level, MMA in general. She isn’t just a boxer. She’s the best woman in boxing right now with major championships in three weight classes. She’s also a two-time Olympic gold medalist.
Ben Fowlkes @benfowlkesMMA
So what’d we learn? Shields stayed composed, didn’t freak out in bad spots. Fast, sharp hands both standing and on the mat. A little bit of wrestling defense when she needed it. Very little grappling awareness. Her overall fight experience and poise helped a ton.
While there have been a few boxers to move to MMA and a few mixed martial artists to try their hand at boxing, there hasn’t been a champion in the prime of their career who has made the transition like Shields.
She isn’t giving up on boxing, but her foray into MMA is fueled by some lofty goals: More money and more fame. The 26-year-old has accomplished nearly everything there is to accomplish in her boxing career but has financial and fame goals that only boxing just won’s accomplish.
She told MMA Fighting:
“In women’s boxing, women don’t get paid that much. I’ve won every title you can think of, every last organization. Three-time division world champ, two-time undisputed champ at 154 and 160 [pounds]. I’ve held titles at 168 and it’s like I’m not a millionaire. I’m known worldwide but I’m not a household name yet.”
For now, Shields is wisely playing things slowly. She is not entered in PFL’s official regular-season format, which means she won’t be fighting former Olympic judoka Kayla Harrison this year, but a superfight could be set up down the line.
At this point, the fact that she got in the cage and actually won an MMA fight is the first step to what could be a superstar career in MMA.