UFC 124 predictions, preview and analysis

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UFC 124: "St. Pierre vs. Koscheck II" from the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, is finally upon us, as the world's largest fight promotion brings its stable of stars back to "The City of Saints" tomorrow night (Dec. 11) live on pay-per-view (PPV).

Remember: MMAmania.com will provide LIVE updates with blow-by-blow, round-by-round commentary of the main card action on fight night, which is slated to air at 10 p.m. ET (with two featured prelim fights beginning at 9 p.m. ET on UFC.com).

Sorry Eminem, but I'd like to welcome y'all to the St. Pierre show.

UFC 124 is all about GSP, who is currently perched atop Mount Olympus as mixed martial arts biggest star. Who's bigger? Brock Lesnar? Got his ass kicked by a Mexican. Anderson Silva? Spends more time fighting the voices in his head than he does the middleweight division. BJ Penn? Needed a country-fried punching bag to prove he can still throw decent leather.

Like it or not, Georges St. Pierre is the man.

But he's also just a man. That means Josh Koscheck has a legitimate chance to shock the world, much like Matt Serra did way back in April 2007. Can he do it? It's certainly up for discussion.

I've also included the current betting lines for each fight so you can get a feel for what the money has to say about the chances of each combatant.

Now, enough with the formalities ... we've got work to do:

170 lbs.: Georges "Rush" St. Pierre (20-2) vs. Josh "Kos" Koscheck (15-4)

Nostradumbass predicts: Josh Koscheck is going to beat Georges St. Pierre in Montreal? Like Nipsey Russell used to say in Wildcats: "Riiiiiiiiiight...."

I swear, lately I've been feeling like I stepped through Aku's time portal and ended up in a future that is Koscheck. When did this brash young shit-talker become a bona fide threat to St. Pierre's throne? Isn't this the same guy that got knocked stupid by Paulo Thiago after he was beaten to a pulp by Thiago Alves? And this, by his own admission, is the period of time when he "became a much different fighter than he was the first time they fought."

Technically, he's right.

When he first met GSP at UFC 74, "Kos" had only one loss. Now they meet again and he's got three more. This might sound like a Koscheck smear campaign but it isn't. I'm just trying to be realistic about his chances against a fighter he's already lost to. And it wasn't a razor thin split decision. It wasn't a war of attrition either. It was three rounds of one fighter controlling the other.

"Well, he wasn't expecting to get beaten in the wrestling and got caught off guard," the sympathizers will explain. Fine. So after one round of being "surprised," don't you head into rounds two and three with Plan B? They'll also insist that Koscheck has gone back to his roots -- and is still the better wrestler. On paper, sure. But that doesn't mean he does a better job than St. Pierre of translating it to an offensive attack during a mixed martial arts fight. Yes, he used it to overcome Anthony Johnson and Paul Daley, who historically have spent less time on the ground than a Pterodactyl on Raptor Island.

Advantage: St. Pierre.

I'm also not convinced that he's got the hands to give "Rush" the fits come fight night. The last two guys he knocked out were such a force in the 170-pound division that they were both given their walking papers not long afterward, probably for having a combined 4-8 record under the Zuffa banner.

Let's give Koscheck the best case scenario. Pretend he's evolved into a better fighter. That only closes the distance if St. Pierre has become a worse fighter, which to me is absurd. Not only has GSP won every round of every fight since his loss to "The Terror," he's developed a seemingly bulletproof gameplan that he executes both flawlessly and consistently. Maybe you want to get on him because he hasn't finished his last two fights, or that he plays it safe.

But really, how do you criticize a fighter who keeps on winning?

I'm not saying this bout will be exciting and I'm certainly not guaranteeing that "Rush" will secure the finish, but no amount of Koscheck hype or Zuffa marketing can change the fact that Georges St. Pierre is the better fighter. He was in 2007 and he will be again in 2010.

See you in Toronto.

Betting lines (as of Dec. 10):

St. Pierre: -400 ((Bet Now))

Koscheck: +300 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: St. Pierre via unanimous decision

265 lbs.: Stefan "Skyscraper" Struve (20-4) vs. Sean "Big Sexy" McCorkle (10-0)

Nostradumbass predicts:  I'm a big fan of happy mediums, which may explain why this fight has irked me so much since it was first announced. It's the mixed martial arts equivalent of Jay and Silent Bob: One loudmouth who insists on doing the talking for both characters. Hey, I get the strategy. I have a tub of cream cheese with a longer shelf life than Sean McCorkle, who at 37 has to make it now -- or never.

Having said that, I appreciate his 21st-century approach to self-marketing and some of it's pretty funny, but like fighting, it's so much more rewarding when your opponent engages. Mir vs. McCorkle? That shit writes itself. Versus Struve? Well, let's just say if Rogan asks him a post-fight question, don't be surprised if the Academy Awards orchestra starts playing to get him off the stage.

But enough about hype, these two are here to fight.

And if you like making money, McCorkle is your bet. I'm not putting a lot of stock in his submission win over Mark Hunt in their UFC debut back in September since the "Super Samoan" rolled into that bout having lost five straight (with four of them coming by way of the tap).

Instead, I direct you to his reign of terror in the Legends of Fighting (LOF) promotion. A lot of people outside the Indianapolis area aren't familiar with (and scoff at) the LOF scene but McCorkle was a heart attack during his five year tour at the 8 Seconds Saloon. True, he hasn't fought a guy with a winning record since 2006, but his hands are like a pinball plunger and he knows how to use his size to do more than just wall-and-stall.

I believe Struve is the better striker, but like his knockout loss to Roy Nelson earlier this year, I don't think he respects Corky's power and may be a little reckless in some of the initial exchanges. That will probably result in a grisly ending for the 'Scraper, and a victorious McCorkle will move on to bigger and better things in 2011.

"Big Sexy" FTW.

Betting lines (as of Dec. 10):

Struve: -160 ((Bet Now))

McCorkle: +130 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: McCorkle via technical knockout

155 lbs.: Charles "do Bronx" Oliveira (14-0) vs. Jim MIller (18-2)

Nostradumbass predicts: I was so relieved when they made this match-up. For awhile there, I was beginning to think it was just the welterweight division that liked to burn through its exciting prospects. Anyone else get giddy at the thought of Oliveira vs. a 155-Aldo? Or Edgar? Me too. I know, I know, Oliveira is green and unproven. But who cares? This is what being a fan is all about: Fantasy match-ups!

Case in point: I wanted to see Anthony Johnson fight Georges St. Pierre. I knew in the back of my mind that he would get taken down ad nauseam but there was something about his raw power -- and the fact that he's the same size as Andrei Arlovski in between fights that just had me licking my chops for that battle.

Same thing with Paul Daley.

"Semtex" has the ground game of a newborn calf but again, anyone that hits as hard as he does can get me excited about a fight. So what did the UFC do? It gave them both to Josh Koscheck, who exposed their flaws and wore them down, effectively eliminating them from any talk of contention.

Now we get to do that all over again with another exciting prospect in Oliveira.

Jim Miller is going to win this fight. If you're the kind of fan that judges the outcome of a match-up by what you see in the Sherdog fight finder then you probably don't need to be reading this because you've already made up your mind.

Unfortunately for the Brazilian, success can be intoxicating, and it doesn't help that his last fight paired him with a talented but strategically bankrupt Efrain Escudero. It's easy to look good when your opponent plays to all of your strengths and none of your weaknesses.

Can "do Bronx" submit Miller? Easily. Can he beat him up on the feet? Undoubtedly. But Miller is more than just a fighter, he's a tactician, and I don't believe he's come this far to give away his spot in line by taking chances. Remember too that the AMA product is 18-2 and his only two losses have come to Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard who oh by the way, happen to be the two top guys at 155.

The Brazilian is 14-0 and riding a high, performing well and probably feeling a little too confident. He's likely to come in with that entertaining but reckless approach to striking -- the same approach that leaves him vulnerable to takedowns. Miller is a talented wrestler who will exploit those openings, frustrating his younger opponent and leaving him a bit befuddled.

There's always the danger of getting subbed and Miller's black belt in jiu-jitsu makes him a competent grappler but not one that is completely out of danger so don't expect to see him on the ground very long. What you should expect is a blue-collar performance that highlights the fundamentals of our sport coupled with a stripped down, nuts-and-bolts offense that will probably leave the crowd booing.

Exciting? No. Effective? Yes. Sorry Charlie, you just got Fitch'd.

Betting lines (as of Dec. 10):

Oliveira: -140 ((Bet Now))

Miller: +110 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: Miller via unanimous decision

170 lbs.: Thiago "Pitbull" Alves (17-7) vs. John "Doomsday" Howard (14-5)

Nostradumbass predicts: I know I'm not alone in wondering if Thiago Alves will have a job on Dec. 12. All he has to do is make weight and win his fight, but that's something he's recently had difficulty accomplishing. After coming in heavy against Jon Fitch (and losing) at UFC 117 back in August, he practically begged Dana White to keep him at welterweight. Multiple weight infractions plus multiple losses equals UFC pink slip. That means there's a lot on the line tomorrow night in a fight that could make or break the Brazilian's career.

And I think he gets it done.

That kind of pressure can break some fighters just as it can propel others. And let's face it, John Howard has not exactly been setting the cage on fire. Even putting aside his TKO loss to Jake Ellenberger, his knockout wins against Dennis Hallman and Daniel Roberts came in fights he was losing. And his two wins before that were close split decisions to Tamdan McCrory and Chris Wilson.

Not exactly a who's-who of welterweight contenders.

Conversely, "The Pitbull" has faced just about everyone at 170-pounds, or at least everyone who's relevant (albeit to mixed results). You can't substitute that kind of experience and "Doomsday's" biggest win was over "Superman." When you compare their records side-by-side, this almost seems like a mismatch.

I believe it is.

This fight was designed to get Alves back on the winning track (assuming he can make weight on the "Dolce Diet") and if Howard is genuine in his desire to keep this one standing, he's going to realize there's a marked difference in talent when you start sticking your nose into the upper end of this division.

Howard will give it the ol' college try, but Professor Alves is going to flunk him in the first round.

Betting lines (as of Dec. 10):

Alves: -300 ((Bet Now))

Howard: +220 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: Alves via technical knockout

155 lbs.: Joe "Daddy" Stevenson (31-11) vs. Mac Danzig (19-8-1)

Nostradumbass predicts: I know a lot of fans have been indifferent towards this fight and that's not uncommon for a bout that is of no consequence as it relates to divisional standings. If Danzig wins he'll probably get to keep his job and if Stevenson wins, well, he'll probably turn up in Seattle working at a car wash. There will be no confrontation and nobody else will get hurt. Sorry, First Blood is on in the background.

Anyway, just because a fight doesn't have title implications doesn't mean it can't be entertaining and I'm expecting a barn-burner. Besides these guys sharing a TUF championship, they've also amassed quite an impressive resume that includes both stateside and International experience.

Simply put, these are seasoned veterans with well-rounded skills.

That should make for an exciting fight for those fans who actually appreciate MMA and don't just order the PPV for an excuse to shotgun a warm six-pack and recite dialogue from The Karate Kid. It also helps that Danzig is fighting for his career so expect a sense of urgency from the vegan warrior.

He's dropped four of five and looked dreadful at times, but Danzig's entire demeanor has changed if you watch some of his recent interviews. He appears much more focused and determined and while I still have the hot-and-cold "Daddy" taking the split decision, it won't be without a fight.

Don't sleep on this lightweight scrap, it's likely to steal the show.

Betting lines (as of Dec. 10):

Stevenson: -300 ((Bet Now))

Danzig: +220 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: Stevenson via split decision

That's a wrap, folks.

Remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of UFC 124: "St. Pierre vs. Koscheck II."

What do you think? Now it's your turn ... let us have it in the comments section and share your thoughts and picks for tomorrow night's event.

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