Four months after enjoying her first mixed martial arts fight, Claressa Shields was presented with a different kind of experience.
The three-division boxing champion and pound-for-pound queen fell just short in her second MMA fight, dropping a split decision to Mexico’s Abigail Montes. Shields won 29-28 on one scorecard, with the same score gracing the two remaining cards in favor of Montes in their ESPN2-televised lightweight battle Wednesday evening at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.
Montes was tasked with spoiling the show for Shields, while making her U.S. debut. The unbeaten lightweight fought in her native Mexico in each of her first two pro bouts, including a second-round stoppage of Teresita DeJesus Lopez this past April as part of iKon Fighting Federation 6 in Los Mochis.
Shields was better prepared for the start of this bout than was the case four months ago in her MMA debut.
The boxing great and MMA novice stood in the center of the octagon, not providing Montes with much room to move. Shields moved in to strike, prompting Montes to clinch and dig her feet into the map as she pinned Shields’ back to the cage for much of the opening round. Montes attempted a takedown in the final minute, which Shields defended against while applying an armbar to restrict her opponent’s ability to maneuver.
Round two threatened more of the same, only for Shields to fight her way out of a clinch two minutes into the frame. Shields landed a clean combination upstairs, bloodying the mouth of Montes who fought through the strikes to drive Shields to the mat via takedown. Shields provided stellar defense on the ground, avoiding right hands from Montes while landing lefts and rights to the head of her opponent.
Montes made her way to her feet, wrapping up Shields with less than a minute to go in the round but not able to capitalize on the moment.
The third and final round of a competitive fight saw Shields look to repeat the end result of her previous fight when she rallied to knock out Brittney Elkin. Montes seemed better prepared for the incoming, dodging a right hand and forcing a ground game in the center of the octagon. Shield was once again forced to fight while on her back, deflecting left hands from Montes but unable to land anything of consequence to disrupt Montes’ ground game.
Montes went for broke in the final minute, positioning herself on top of Shields and letting her hands go. Shields was forced to play defense for most of the final 30 seconds, bearing a stoic expression at fight’s end though quick to seek and embrace her opponent following the competitive affair.
Montes improves to 3-0 (1 stoppage), her stock soaring after Wednesday’s win.
Shields suffers her first combat sports loss as a pro, falling to 1-1 (1 stoppage) in the octagon. The defeat was her first of any kind since May 2012, when she dropped a decision to England’s Savannah Marshall in the second round of the 2012 AIBA World Championships at middleweight.
Shields and Marshall are back on a collision course, though not before appearing in separate bouts on the same December 11 show in Birmingham, England. Shields (11-0, 2KOs as a boxer) returns to the ring for the first time since a ten-round shutout of unbeaten Marie Eve Dicaire in March, a fight which saw her become the first two-division undisputed champion in women’s boxing history in collecting all four major belts at junior middleweight.
The transition back to boxing for Shields will come at middleweight, as she faces Slovenia’s Ema Kozin (21-0-1, 11 KOs) in defense of her WBC/WBA/IBF middleweight championship. Marshall defends her WBO belt versus an opponent to be determined.
Wins by Shields and Marshall will set up an undisputed showdown in the first half of 2022, marking the ten-year anniversary of their aforementioned amateur battle. Shields has since claimed two Olympic Gold medals and championship wins at super middleweight, middleweight and junior middleweight along with earning accolades as the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox