Jake Shields remains one of the very best grapplers in all of MMA. The former Strikeforce champion was a Division I wrestler and has won several high-level jiu-jitsu tournaments. Of his 30 career victories, 11 have come by way of submission.
There isn't a whole lot Shields has not seen on the ground. Rousimar Palhares, though, is a different breed. He's known for his incredible leglocks -- and holding onto them until his opponent is screaming and pleading for him to let go.
Shields will get a shot at Palhares and the World Series of Fighting welterweight title if he is able to beat Brian Foster at WSOF 17 on Saturday in Las Vegas. The 36-year-old MMA veteran admits that proposition doesn't sound like too much fun.
"He's definitely done some dirty stuff," Shields said. "He's a scary guy. You don't want to get into that position with him and if you do, you want to get out of there fast."
Palhares was cut from the UFC in 2013 when he held onto Mike Pierce's leg too long during a fight-finishing heel hook. In 2010, Palhares was suspended 90 days in New Jersey for not stopping a heel hook against Tomasz Drwal when the referee tried pulling him off.
There are multiple other instances when Palhares may have gone a little too far. Last month, Palhares beat Jon Fitch to retain his title with a kneebar that he might have held a hair too long. WSOF defended Palhares and the California State Athletic Commission did not exact any penalty. Shields almost defends him in this case.
"It's borderline," he said. "I think he just goes at them so viciously and so hard that it ends up popping. And he doesn't stop until the referee stops him. It's definitely borderline. There's been a couple of them where he's definitely been dirty, especially in his submission matches.
"I do think he holds on too long. But I think maybe people have criticized him where he hasn't. But there definitely have been a few of his fights were he definitely held on too long. The last couple he's still been criticized for, maybe he hasn't."
Shields is not anti-Palhares. He doesn't think he should be sanctioned or stripped of his belt. Nothing of the sort. In fact, the former UFC veteran can easily put himself in Palhares' shoes. To Shields, Palhares is doing everything possible to win.
"His advantage is that he goes out there and tries to break your leg, which is terrible if you're fighting him," Shields said. "But it makes it a lot more realistic and a lot deadlier in a fight when a guy is trying to snap your leg and knee in half. It makes you want to tap. You can call it dirty, but it is a fight. People are trying to knock him out; he's trying to seriously hurt you."
Shields (30-7-1, 1 NC) has his hands full Saturday with the extremely underrated Foster, a talented kickboxer and opportunistic submission guy. A fight between Shields and Palhares, though, would be big for WSOF. It's one of the biggest name bouts the fledgling promotion can do in 2015.
There would be much intrigue. Can Shields, the master grappler, stay away from the hulking Palhares' frightening leg locks? Shields admits he's never encountered anyone like the Brazilian.
"I've never faced a guy with leglocks that do serious damage like that," Shields said. "He's really good at grappling, but I've faced a lot of the top grapplers, so it's nothing I'm not used to."