Though it won’t be for any points in the standings, the main event of this Thursday night’s PFL 4 on ESPN2 brings with it an anticipated debut in the women’s lightweight division. Decorated boxing champ Claressa Shields (11-0, two knockouts) meets Brittney Elkin (3-6) in the former’s MMA debut, a showcase fight in the PFL’s Women’s Lightweight division.
This three-round fight at five minutes per round will serve as Elkin’s first MMA appearance since Jan. 19, 2019– when she lost by first-round TKO due to an arm injury at the hands of Bobbi Jo Dalziel during NMEF: Annihilation 66 in that evening’s headlining contest.
Heading into the showcase fight during the main event of PFL 4 on Thursday night (10 pm ET/ 7 pm PT, ESPN2), Brittney Elkin will be the taller woman, standing 5-foot-11, with Claressa Shields standing 5-foot-8. In addition, Shields holds a reach advantage over Elkin.
As previously mentioned, Thursday’s headlining bout marks Claressa Shields’ debut in MMA, but she’s already proven to be a force to be reckoned with inside the squared circle of boxing, as she is the only such athlete in the sport, regardless of gender, to have held every major championship in two divisions. Shields is also a two-time gold medalist in boxing for the United States Olympic team during the Summer Games in 2012 and 2016.
Shields: Standing Up For Her Hometown
Shields, who most recently scored a unanimous decision victory against Marie Eve Dicaire in March during the headlining bout of the Superwomen pay-per-view on FITE TV, will be seen sporting blue hair in Thursday’s bout– for a very serious reason.
The champion will continue to wear her hair blue on fight nights, including PFL 4 on Thursday night until a years-long water crisis in her hometown of Flint, MI– where the drinking water is contaminated with lead– is resolved.
“I wear my hair blue when I fight to represent the water crisis and bring attention to it because Flint still has dirty water”, Shields said in an interview.
In an interview with the PFL in the run-up to PFL 4 on Thursday, Shields reaffirmed her commitment to her community, saying:
“I told my city I’d wear my hair blue until the water is clean.”
Elkin Not Backing Down From Shields’ Challenge
In the other corner, Brittney Elkin has fought exclusively in grappling matches for the last year, including the Subersiv 4 event last Halloween, where she battled four times in the same evening, ending with a victory over Fatima Kline via unanimous decision under the Fight 2 Win promotion.
Although Elkin hasn’t fought in an MMA cage in nearly two and a half years, she isn’t fazed by the prospect of having to face a striker of Shields’ caliber, saying to Overtime Heroics:
“I feel that when I get my hands on her. I’m just going to climb. I don’t see it any other way, with the game plan we’re going for, I feel like we’re going to have great success. You can’t gameplan what’s going to happen that day, but I just have to remember the whole time not to get distracted, stay in the moment, and just be ready.”
Fighter Styles and Analysis
When I first started looking up the pertinent details for this article, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between the PFL 4 main event on Thursday and last Saturday’s main event at UFC Vegas 28 between Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Augusto Sakai.
In that matchup, Rozenstruik was the stand-up fighter and Sakai was the grappler in Brazilian jiu-jitsu– and here, it’s Shields who excels in the stand-up game with her boxing and Elkin is the grappler in BJJ.
As with Rozenstruik’s striking last weekend, this looks to be a very winnable fight for Claressa Shields on paper in PFL 4 this Thursday, provided that she does not find herself on the receiving end of a Brittney Elkin takedown.
Shields’ Punching Power vs. Elkin’s Grappling
If Shields can turn this into a boxing match on Thursday night at PFL 4 and keep it that way, she’ll be in good shape, but if Elkin lands a takedown during the fight and advances on it, it could be a somber MMA debut for the boxing champion, particularly if Elkin can hunt for a submission, which she’s been able to get in recent times. On Halloween, she submitted Eve Issacs by armbar during Subersiv 4, her only win by submission that evening.
Another question that the PFL 4 main event will try to answer is just how good is Claressa Shields’ ground game?
If she’s able to reverse an Elkin takedown during PFL 4, will she be able to take the top mount and land ground and pound shots to try to get the knockout on the mat?
Only time will tell.
Prediction: Claressa Shields by Unanimous Decision.
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