Claressa Shields wins MMA debut via third-round TKO

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ATLANTIC CITY, NEW JERSEY - JUNE 10: Claressa Shields of the United States punches Brittney Elkin of the United States during the third round of their lightweight bout in Ovation Hall at Ocean Casino Resort on June 10, 2021 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
11-0 in boxing, 1-0 in MMA. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Claressa Shields is 1-0 as an MMA fighter.

The three-division boxing champion scored a third-round TKO win over Brittney Elkin in her MMA debut Friday at the main event of 2021's PFL 4.

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Shields' punching power was clearly apparent through the first two rounds, but was mitigated by Elkin repeatedly trying to take down Shields. It wasn't surprising to see Shields' have a weakness in her ground game, but she managed to avoid a defeat by submission.

Attempting to take Shields to the ground didn't go nearly as well for Elkin in the third round, as Shields ended up in a dominant position and proceeded to go to town on her opponent. After a litany of shots to the head, the ref called the fight for Shields.

"My coach said 'Let her up," he was saying 'Let her up,' and I told myself 'Hell nah,'" Shields said after the bout.

By the PFL's count, Shields outstruck Elkin 90-43 in the fight, with 39 arm strikes, two leg strikes and 49 on the ground.

Claressa Shields' MMA career off to good start

Shields made waves late last year when she interrupted an undefeated professional boxing career to sign a three-year deal with PFL

The two-time Olympic gold medalist had been frustrated with her lack of opportunities as a boxer despite holding an 11-0 record and active titles in two divisions (she's currently the undisputed champion at middleweight and light middleweight). The move to MMA doesn't put Shields' boxing career on ice, but it's not often you see a sport's top athlete try her hand somewhere else during her prime.

In PFL, Shields has an MMA promotion with fighters in her weight class — Shields fought Thursday at lightweight, and the UFC has few fighters even at featherweight — but the biggest lure is the prospect of a fight against 2020 lightweight champion Kayla Harrison. 

A Shields-Harrison fight would be one of the biggest events in the history of both women's MMA and PFL, and the PFL's structure would set it all up for a clash on New Year's Eve. Shields' win Thursday is her first step toward that hope, and the MMA world will certainly hope she sees it out.

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