Hall of famer Matt Hughes has his work cut out for him. | Photo: Sherdog.com
Matt Hughes (45-8, 18-6 UFC) vs. Josh Koscheck (15-5, 13-5 UFC)
The Matchup: Koscheck looks to return from his humbling decision defeat to Georges St. Pierre at UFC 124, where the champion dominated over five one-sided rounds. Equipped with top-notch wrestling and takedowns, Koscheck remains one of the game’s elite welterweights. Former champion Hughes gets a tough break here; originally slated to face the now-injured Diego Sanchez, he draws a much more difficult style matchup in Koscheck.
Hughes does not figure to be able to take down Koscheck easily, if at all, but his standup in recent bouts has shown more commitment compared to the days of his title reign, when he mostly grounded-and-pounded opponents. However, the talent pool has expanded considerably since Hughes’ reign, and middling performances in recent outings for him are indicative of a once-great fighter well past his best days. Hughes’ best shot is getting into a clinch and hoping to create a scramble or takedown opening and work from there. Koscheck’s ability to land numbing strikes on the feet is often overlooked due to his wrestling credentials, but, style-wise, this bout could look a lot like his one-round blowout of Frank Trigg.
Koscheck’s right hand and sprawl will come into the fray early. Hughes will definitely be a sentimental favorite here for fans, but it is hard to see a way in which he could win. He does not have the standup to trouble his opponent too much, and Koscheck is going to be too athletic to take down and keep down.
The Pick: It is Koscheck’s fight to lose, and he will take a round to gauge the distance before turning up the pressure and putting Hughes on his back in the second, following up with a heavy ground-and-pound to win by knockout.
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