Erik Koch’s standup carried him to victory. | Photo: Dave Mandel
It is tough enough to be talented in the ever-evolving sport in MMA and, oftentimes, an entirely different thing to be exciting. When the two overlap, the fighter possessing these mutual assets is holding one heck of a hand at the proverbial poker table.
That is because usage of either term to define a guy, often by default, implies that he is not the other. It is a tacit assumption based on real-world evidence; live by the sword and you die by it, too, especially if you are a gifted striker looking to end fights on the feet. Featherweight Erik Koch seems to be straddling both definitions nicely enough, and his decision win over Jonathan Brookins at UFC Fight Night 25 on Saturday in New Orleans was a solid addition to his impressive body of work.
Koch gauged the scope of Brookins’ attack, which consisted entirely of pushing him against the cage and battling for mostly failed attempts at single-leg and lateral-drop takedowns, and stuffed it masterfully. Then, in the second and third rounds, he increased his striking output, pulling ahead in the bout to take a clear-cut unanimous decision. It is fitting that he is good buddies and roommates with fellow Duke Roufus protégé Anthony Pettis, as the duo does so many things alike from a technical perspective.
With Brookins vying constantly to get it to the mat, my first thought was, “He’s going to try and Guida him,” remembering Clay Guida’s takedown-heavy attack in which he decisioned Pettis in June, even though it was largely uneventful outside of those transitions.
On this night, the standup guy got the better of it. Score one for the strikers in what was a big win for Koch, who turns 23 next month could be plain scary in the coming months and years.
Jason Probst can be reached at Jason@jasonprobst.com or twitter.com/jasonprobst.