Claressa Shields is turning a loss into a lesson. The two-time Olympic gold medalist and multi-time boxing champion suffered the first defeat of her professional fighting career at the 2021 PFL World Championship finale on Wednesday night.
Shields lost a split decision to Abigail Montes, who utilized a wrestling-heavy strategy to avoid most of the right hands being thrown by her opponent. The 21-year-old did have her work cut out for her though, as Shields showed signs of improvement in her wrestling defense, but they were not enough to overcome her disadvantage on the ground. Montes secured takedowns in the second and third rounds of the fight and controlled Shields from top position.
As soon as she left the cage, Shields already knew what she needed to refine before fighting again. Speaking to Mike Coppinger of ESPN immediately after the loss to Montes, she assessed her performance and admitted that her ground game still needs work.
“I did better in there. I did pretty good on the cage,” said Shields. “It was always the ground stuff. Gotta get better at defending the takedown and stuff. The game plan was to just do better than my last fight. Of course to win [also], but do better.
“It continues to show us what we need to work on, and I worked damn hard in camp,” continued Shields. “I knew I would look better. It was the last round that did it for me. She went for the goddamn takedown and I didn’t respond quick enough.”
Shields encountered a similar issue in her professional and promotional debut against Brittney Elkin this past June. Elkin took the fight to the ground and kept Shields on her back for the better part of two rounds. However, a big right hand in addition to a stuffed takedown and follow-up ground-and-pound saw Shields snatch victory from the jaws of defeat as she earned a third-round technical knockout over Elkin.
Shields acknowledged the inexperience then and has done so again now. Her plan is to return to JacksonWink MMA to continue her training and prepare for her next appearance under the PFL banner.
“Continue more ground game, continue more training; getting better,” said Shields. “I’ve got two more years left so it’s not over.”
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