UFC 124 Preview: The Main Card

St. Pierre vs. Koscheck

By Jason Probst Dec 8, 2010
Georges St. Pierre (red trunks) vs. Josh Koscheck: Sherdog.com

There’s nothing like a couple months’ worth of reality television to build a rivalry, and in the case of UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre and challenger Josh Koscheck, their running duel on “The Ultimate Fighter 12” has supplied adequate, if not overwhelming, pre-fight buzz.

That’s because St. Pierre resides in the magical zone which few champions ever reach, simultaneously at the top of his physical and mental games. Meanwhile, Koscheck’s limited verbal repartee makes one hope he’s done a lot more work coming up with new strategies for the fight itself.

But, hey, everybody likes a throwdown to settle some bad blood, right?

Not every reality show finale can match the unabated hype of Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock’s second meeting. Nor, thankfully, does every finale lead to the dreadful letdown which that shameful rematch eventually did.

Koscheck is still an exceptionally gifted fighter with the right skill set to pose problems for the dominant champ. There are a handful of 170-pounders on the planet who could hope to outwrestle St. Pierre in an MMA match, and right now, former NCAA champ Koscheck is on the short list.

Here’s a breakdown of the UFC 124 main event, as well as the rest of the card.

Georges St. Pierre vs. Josh Koscheck

In contemplating the possibilities of a rematch, I try and apply the Nick Diaz-Jeremy Jackson Rule whenever possible.

The Diaz-Jackson Rule is a handy reminder that anything is possible in a fight -- so much so that one contest may not accurately represent the relative skills and likely outcome of a bout. Both fighters scored one-sided first-round stoppages in their first two bouts. Diaz landed a third-round submission in the spirited rubber match, a fight far more competitive than the two which preceded it. Each fight, watched separately, would invalidate the likelihood of the other two.

It’s a pretty good rule, and one which you are welcome to invoke in any argument when discussing rematches, MMA in general, climate change, or whatever.

That’s why I think Josh Koscheck could have a pretty good chance at unseating Georges St. Pierre, despite all the indicators suggesting otherwise. GSP has steadily improved since their first match, which he won by one-sided decision, dominating Koscheck and outwrestling him, to boot. Koscheck’s attempts at mind games while the two coached “The Ultimate Fighter” fell flat. Despite this, it seems too easy to simply check the box here and expect more of the same.

To pull off the upset, Koscheck will have to make something big happen early. He can’t concede the first takedown, and has to be more effective on the feet. While St. Pierre is a dynamic striker with a ridiculously deep bag of tricks, Koscheck tends to rely on a big overhand right as his bread and butter move.

The problem with attacking St. Pierre is that his takedowns are the best in the sport and he can knock you silly. As a result, opponents get paralyzed contemplating all the terrible things he could possibly do. Koscheck has to come out banging and aggressive, and keep pushing forward. Standing around and waiting for something to develop is almost always going to be a losing strategy against St. Pierre, who has too many options against anyone at 170 pounds.

Koscheck has to go for broke to win this one, pulling a page from the Matt Serra playbook. He’s either going to land something huge in the opening round, plant GSP on his back, and pound him out, or not. If it’s the latter, look for GSP to craftily pick his moment to take Koscheck down, at which point he’ll thump him up, improve position, and plant all the ugly seeds of doubt in Kos’ head. It’s a grim thing St. Pierre does to opponents, and you can see it on their faces when everything they try only makes things worse.

If this goes past one round and Koscheck doesn’t land a big punch for an early stoppage, I like St. Pierre by a fourth-round win, mostly because he seems peeved and amused at Koscheck’s attempts to rattle him. St. Pierre also probably wants to end it inside the distance to quiet the critics knocking his string of decisions in recent bouts.

If “Kos” does pull the trick, I’ll be the first to cite the Diaz-Jackson Rule.
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