Georges St. Pierre: J. Sherwood | Sherdog.com
Following Friday’s preliminary picks, Sherdog.com staff put their reputations on the line with bold predictions of the UFC 124 main card:
UFC Welterweight Championship
Georges St. Pierre vs. Josh Koscheck
Jordan Breen: The face-heel dynamic sells, and part of that is people talking themselves into how competitive this fight will be. People have run with the notion that because Josh Koscheck didn't prepare his wrestling for their August 2007 clash, and is working diligently on it now, it will make a world of difference. The problem is that St. Pierre's wrestling game has improved tenfold since then, and even with wrestling with Ben Askren, it's doubtful Koscheck will stop the power double, the kneetap, and GSP's other tricks. And that's on top of the fact that St. Pierre is still a better striker than Koscheck, who while powerful, basically throws right-handed fastballs. If St. Pierre doesn't get the stop -- and let's all hope he does, for the sake of anti-decision whiners and complainers -- he's cruising to another wide decision with all-around dominance.
Freddie DeFreitas: St. Pierre returns to the Bell Centre in Montreal riding the wave of a seven fight winning streak kick-started by a unanimous decision win over Koschek -- but that was over three years ago. A winner of six of his last eight bouts, Kosheck enters the first title fight of his career with only a few believing he can pull off the upset. Count me in with that select crowd: Koshcek by TKO in the third round. Riots will ensue in downtown Montreal, causing many to wonder if the Habs just exited the Stanley Cup playoffs (again).
Lutfi Sariahmed: While I respect how much Koscheck has developed since his first bout with GSP, there are still very basic elements to this bout that favor GSP. He's still a better wrestler for MMA than Koscheck is. He can still outmuscle Koscheck in the clinch and while he may be on the short end of the stand-up battle, it won't matter. GSP does what he needs to so that he can win the fight. That's all that matters. So for all the talk about Koscheck being able to score some points on the feet, it won't matter. Unless GSP has a complete brain fart, he's not going to throw hands with Koscheck. He'll take him down and get the win either by KO late or 50-45 decision. I'll go with the latter.
Rob King: I think it's pretty safe to say that nobody has improved their wrestling through MMA alone more so than GSP. Now Koscheck of course was a college Division 1 Champion at Edinboro, but even with that I think you have to consider the wrestling ability of each in this fight to wash each others' out. So considering that Koscheck's biggest strength will be neutralized, I see St. Pierre sending his hometown fans happy with a late stoppage to retain the title.
Thiago Alves (No. 3 WW) vs. John Howard
Tristen Critchfield: How Alves survives the grueling weight cut to 170 dictates how he will perform. If he’s lively and energetic, he’ll be able to finish Howard. If he’s drained, then Howard has a solid chance for the upset. Alves bounces back from his loss to Fitch and utilizes his size advantage to finish the fight. Alves by TKO round three.
Tomasz Marciniak: Provided both of them make weight just fine I don't see Howard getting through the stern takedown defense of Alves, and he is going to get outstruck on the feet. With Howard, there's always the chance of him landing that one punch, but Alves should be too good of a striker to get caught like that. I like the Brazilian to win via stoppage in the later. rounds.
Tony Loiseleur: As impressively powerful as Howard is, he's going up against an equally if not more powerful Alves. The ATT fighter's difficulties making weight could catch up with him again in this fight, but putting all my faith in the Dolce Diet, I'm hoping that it won't. If all goes swimmingly when Alves steps on the scales, I expect him to have the energy to stop or scramble out of takedowns in order to mash Howard up on the feet. Alves TKO, round two.
Jim Miller vs. Charles Oliveira
Brian Knapp: Oliveira has unbelievable upside, but I think Miller has a little too much experience for him this early in his career. Miller by decision.
DeFreitas: One must consider Jim Miller a legitimate contender in the UFC lightweight division when you glance down his record and note his two career losses have come at the hands of the current champion (Frankie Edgar) and the current No. 1 contender (Gray Maynard). Oliveira has dazzled in his first two appearances in the cage, but Miller presents a style that could potentially give the unbeaten Brazilian problems. Miller frustrates Oliveira for three solid rounds en route to (yet another) unanimous decision.
Breen: Headliner aside, my favorite bout on the card. Oliveira's wrestling and striking have improved dramatically in the last year, since working out with Jorge "Macaco" Patino in Houston. His defensive wrestling used to be positively dreadful, but he's made considerable gains in this department. I like Miller as a bet -- he's an underdog and should likely be a small favorite -- on account of his superior boxing and wrestling. However, you could have made a similar case (and I did) in Oliveira's fight with Efrain Escudero. On top of that, Miller isn't above giving up dominant positions, and Oliveira's finishing skills are tippity-top. It's the perfect fight for either fighter to thrust themselves more prominently into the 155-pound division. It makes it hard to believe the UFC went without the lightweight division for two years.
Loiseleur: In terms of experienced opponents, Miller is a pretty big step for the young Oliveira -- maybe too big of a step up. While I like Oliveira's chances on the feet to potshot Miller with low kicks and the occasional flying knee, I like Miller's chances getting it to the ground and controlling for all three rounds. Oliveira's submission skills are good, but Miller has not been finished yet. I'll take Miller by decision.
Joe Stevenson vs. Mac Danzig
King: When Stevenson was fighting Joe Camacho on a tennis court over ten years ago, did anyone expect this little guy from California to become a UFC mainstay? Danzig is one of the few guys who has been around as long as Stevenson, but I like “Joe Daddy” to pick up a much-needed victory by late submission.
Knapp: Stevenson on points. Danzig has a very well-rounded game, but he doesn't do anything exceptionally well. I expect Stevenson to put him on his back and grind on him for three rounds.
Sariahmed: I'll favor Stevenson in a battle between two TUF winners. Both have some substantial holes in their games but Danzig hasn't lost to anyone with even a modicum of talent since the Bocek fight. Stevenson is better than that.
Stefan Struve vs. Sean McCorkle
Marciniak: McCorkle's stiffest test so far came in the 2010 incarnation of Mark Hunt. Struve is a fighter that McCorkle won't be able to effortlessly submit, and he will provide a true test of the American's mettle at this level. Struve has been through the wringer, and while he still can't use his size to full effectiveness, he will do enough to beat McCorkle.
Breen: McCorkle legitimately fascinates me in a way few MMA fighters do: despite creating the ultimate internet troll persona and actively working to bolster it, he's got a brilliant everyman's tale as a Midwestern single father who had money, went broke, and got a second lease on life by realizing a seemingly improbable dream. On top of that, this is only the second time he's had a serious training camp for a fight, so it's difficult to know exactly how improved he'll be. The biggest caveat is simply the fact that Struve is a much better opponent than Mark Hunt, especially on the floor, where Struve -- in spite of being labeled a "striker" because he's Dutch -- is at his finest. McCorkle normally bests his foes on the floor, and I'm skeptical that he's better than Struve there, so it's hard not to side with the "Skyscraper" in this one.
Critchfield: The lanky Struve will be at a significant strength disadvantage against McCorkle, but if he can weather Big Sexy's storm early and get the fight into the later rounds, the tide will turn in his favor. Expect Struve to use his long limbs to score a submission as McCorkle tires in round three.