Josh Koscheck (17-5, 15-5 UFC) vs. Johny Hendricks (12-1, 7-1 UFC)
The Matchup: Hendricks shocked the world when his left hook dropped Jon Fitch at UFC 141, setting up a 12-second finish of one of the most consistent competitors in the sport today. While it is unreasonable to expect a similar result against Koscheck, the knockout demonstrated the explosiveness of Hendricks, who is the type of athlete that makes the welterweight division so competitive.
Meanwhile, Koscheck struggled in a closely contested split decision triumph over Mike Pierce in February. Pierce does not make life easy for anyone, however, but “Kos” won the takedown battle and did just enough to influence the judges. Koscheck’s 20 fights of Octagon experience should not be discounted; the man knows what it takes to win. “The Ultimate Fighter 1” alum has officially parted ways with the American Kickboxing Academy and will have to prove himself without the backing of one of the world’s strongest camps.
The wrestling credentials of Hendricks, a two-time national champion at Oklahoma State University, and Koscheck, an NCAA champion at Edinboro University, should cancel each other out. Koscheck shoots for takedowns as quickly as anyone in the sport, but Hendricks can counter that with an equally quick sprawl followed by solid dirty boxing in the clinch. Likewise, Koscheck’s overall athleticism makes him an extremely difficult target for takedowns.
Hendricks has gradually shown more prowess in his standup, even before the Fitch fight, which was more a matter of well-timed aggression than anything else. He has demonstrated fight-ending power before, finishing the likes of T.J. Waldburger, Charlie Brenneman and Amir Sadollah earlier in his career. When Koscheck connects with his weapon of choice -- the overhand right -- he can do plenty of damage, as well. His technique is not always a thing of beauty; if he misfires, he will leave himself open to a counter from Hendricks, who excels at getting inside and can unleash a right hook-left uppercut combo with great effectiveness.
Overall, Hendricks is the more accurate puncher, and he might be able to steal a takedown or two by preceding his shot with a solid combination. Koscheck tends to wing his strikes one at a time, making it more difficult to catch Hendricks off-guard.
The Pick: Hendricks is a star on the rise, but not every fight is of the highlight-reel variety. He will need to capitalize on openings in what should be a grinding affair: landing punches in the clinch, countering on the feet and being opportunistic with his wrestling. Hendricks’ standup is not so advanced that this will be a blowout, but he has the ability to frustrate Koscheck. Unless “Kos” can find a home for his overhand right, Hendricks takes a decision.
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