The 2021 PFL World Championship took a brief pause from its six title fights Wednesday evening, turning the attention on the ESPN2 and ESPN+ main card to the return of two-time Olympic boxing gold medalist Claressa Shields.
In her PFL and MMA debut against Brittney Elkin back at PFL 4 in June, Shields faced serious adversity in Rounds 1 and 2 before turning things around and earning a comeback TKO victory in the fight’s final frame.
While that fight showed her resilience, heart, and finishing instincts, it also showed she had plenty to learn and improve in order to round out her entire MMA game.
Would the 2-0 Abigail Montes give Shields the first loss on her professional combat sports record, or would Shields continue to grow her starpower inside the PFL SmartCage?
We’re off, and Montes is on her bike early. Shields looks for a jab, followed by an inside leg kick. The patience from Shields here is evident, as she’s calmly stalking Montes and choosing her shots, hoping to avoid running into a takedown.
Big overhand right misses from Shields. Montes returns fire with one leg kick, followed by another. Shields senses an opportunity and explodes, unleashing a quick combo with her hands that causes Montes to clinch. They’re pressed against the cage, and Montes works to secure double underhooks.
Shields works to gain one underhook, but Montes continues to pursue the takedown here. Two minutes left in the round, and Montes has Shields pressed against the fence, chipping away with short shots on the inside.
Shields avoids the takedown as the round expires, showcasing some noticeable improvement in that area. It wasn’t the most action-packed round of all time, but it might be an important one as this fight progresses.
Shields flicks the jab early in Round 2, but the range isn’t quite there. Montes lands with a low kick, and Shields rushes in with a flurry of hard punches. Just as she gets loose, Montes ties her up once more, forcing her back against the cage.
They separate, and Shields is unloading now, clearly feeling more confident in her hands. That might’ve been her downfall, though, as Montes times a takedown beautifully and plants her on the mat. Montes goes to work from Shields’ full guard as Greg Jackson pleads with Shields to get up from the corner.
Eventually, she does work back to her feet, just in time for the round to end. Is another third-round stoppage on its way?
Shields comes out quickly again in Round 3, looking to connect with her piston-like right hand. She lands it, but Montes eats the shot well and presses forward, once again forcing the fight to the cage.
Eventually, Shields regains and underhook and turns the tables on Montes, getting a trip of her own and briefly enjoying some time on the ground on her own terms. Montes pops back to her feet, however, and they continue to strike.
Once again, Shields gets a little too comfortable on the feet, and Montes makes her pay with a big takedown. She goes to work from half guard and transitions to mount with 30 seconds to go.
Montes opens up with a flurry from the top, but Shields is firing back from the bottom, and this fight ends with the two going back and forth in wild fashion on the ground.
No comeback this time for Shields. She met her match in Montes, who stayed composed, completed the takedowns, and avoided any major damage in the process.
This is the progression for Shields. While she certainly showed some promise and improvement, she won’t be able to fully utilize her skill set without first rounding out her total MMA game.
Official Result: Abigail Montes def. Claressa Shields via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)