Will Claressa Shields' Boxing Greatness Carry Over To MMA?
Claressa "T-Rex" Shields is in the top 10 female boxers of all time. She is currently ranked #2 in The Ring's pound-for-pound best female boxers list. As an amateur, she won 2 Olympic gold medals and 2 world championships. In her pro boxing career, she is a 3-division world champion.
On June 10, 2021, Claressa Shields is scheduled to make her debut in the world of MMA against Brittney Elkin. She's achieved almost everything in boxing and has now decided to test herself at a completely different fighting game.
Will her skills be enough to be successful at MMA? Does she need to incorporate kicks in her standing game? Can someone learn the ground game so quickly? And how big of a challenge does Brittney Elkin pose? We will try to answer those questions and more in this article. Let's start with the statistics.
Fighter Stats (MMA)
Record: 0-0-0 (0 wins, 0 losses, 0 draws)
Height: 5 ft 8 in (173 cm)
Reach: 68 in (173 cm)
Record: 3-6-0 (3 wins, 6 losses, 0 draws)
Height: 5 ft 11 in (180 cm)
Reach: 71 in (180 cm)
Who is Brittney Elkin?
We already know who Claressa is and what she brings to the table. Let's take a look at Brittney's profile.
Brittney Elkin is a high-level grappler. She has a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and she retired from MMA after a loss and a hand injury during her last fight, back in 2019.
Since then, Brittney has competed exclusively in grappling.
While her MMA career may not look very impressive, with twice as many losses as wins, she can definitely fight. Obviously, the place she feels most comfortable is on the ground, but her standing game is not to be dismissed.
Brittney is almost 10 years older than Claressa, but since MMA requires complete body endurance, the age gap may just serve as an equalizer to strength on both sides, making the fight more interesting.
Why is Claressa transitioning to MMA?
Some suspect that Claressa is transitioning to MMA because women don't get paid enough in boxing, even when they've reached the pinnacle of the sport. Recently, high-profile fighters like Amanda Nunez, Holly Holm, Ronda Rousey, and Chris "Cyborg" have drawn a lot of attention to women's MMA.
Claressa has also expressed that she wants to be considered the "Greatest Woman of All Time" in the entirety of the fighting game and always planned to transition to MMA. Since she has already made such an impact in the boxing world, she claims she wants to work towards being the first athlete, male or female, to ever hold a world title in both, Boxing and MMA, at the same time. Holly Holm is the only MMA World Champion (UFC is the best MMA Federation, so we are not taking into account all MMA organizations) who also held a world title in professional boxing. But she didn’t hold titles from both at the same time, which is what Claressa wants to achieve. Coincidentally, Holly Holm has helped Claressa in her training for her MMA debut.
What does Brittney Elkin need to do to win this fight?
To win this fight, Brittney Elkin needs to get the fight on the ground. Brittney is a high-level grappler. If Claressa gets on the ground with her, no matter how fast of a learner she is, she will most definitely get submitted or even knocked out. If she had a wrestling or judo background, there are ways to adjust for BJJ, but she is a boxer and nothing in her athletic career has prepared her for the ground game. Six months is just not enough to overcome a brown belt.
What does Claressa have to do to win?
A whole lot more, is the short answer.
The main thing that Claressa has to do to win is to protect herself from takedowns. If she manages to keep the game standing up, she has a good chance of catching Brittney with a punch and knocking her out. She should practice exploding on the ground and getting up in the case that she ends up on the ground with her opponent.
If Claressa knocks Brittney down, she shouldn't overreact and jump on top to finish her on the ground. If Brittney isn't badly hurt, they would just end up in a grappling situation, which would play to Brittney’s strengths. The chance that Claressa would win in that situation is close to 0%.
Brittney isn't known for being a huge kicker, but she will probably throw an occasional low kick. Boxers are very susceptible to these kicks. Boxing stances tend to be wider to gain additional leverage for punches. In MMA, a wider stance is a vulnerability that all veteran fighters are aware of (your front foot is closer to the opponent and thus it’s easier to kick it). Claressa has to keep her front foot closer to her and practice checking the low kicks.
Does Claressa need to learn kicking to win this fight?
In an ideal world Claressa would know all aspects of mixed martial arts, but in the time constraints she has, it's not advisable to completely change her standing game. She has to leverage what she's best at, boxing, and as long as she protects herself well from takedowns and kicks, she has a good chance of winning.
Shields has trained with some of the best MMA fighters and coaches in the world. Since December 2020, she has been training at the Jackson Wink MMA Academy, getting help from trainers such as Jon Jones and Holly Holm.
One thing that seems troubling is that there is almost no evidence of her doing serious MMA sparring. Hopefully, she will get a bit of experience: see what it feels like to be hit with a 4 oz glove, practice her takedown defense, and deal with the consequences when unsuccessful and on the ground.
Whether this fight is competitive or not, solely depends on the takedown defense of Shields. We can expect this matchup between Claressa Shields and Brittney Elkin to be a competitive fight.
Who wins this fight?
If Claressa Shields gets taken down multiple times, she will likely lose the fight.
If Brittney Elkin is unable to take her opponent to the ground, she will get outboxed on the ground.
We will have to tune and watch to see who will be victorious.
How can you watch?
Claressa Shields will be making her pro debut in MMA vs. Brittney Elkin, as a co-main event on the PFL 4 (Season 2021).
In the U.S., you will be able to watch the fight live on ESPN, ESPN+ and ESPN Deportes.
Here is a full list of networks that will air the card.
Brittney Elkin is determined to win this fight and at the minimum, she is going to properly test Claressa Shields in her debut to the world of Mixed Martial Arts. Stay tuned for our post-fight analysis and make sure to check-out our YouTube channel for more content on boxing, kickboxing, and MMA.
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The Author: Nikolay Tsenkov is a dad, husband, entrepreneur, and boxing aficionado. He started training late, when he was 26 years old. One of his biggest regrets in life is that he never competed. For several years he has trained alongside national and European champions and professional boxers. He is an avid student of boxing, but enjoys all sorts of martial arts.