George St. Pierre (20-2) vs. Josh Koscheck (15-4)
Let’s close our eyes and think back for a moment……….The day was August 27th 2007 and it was UFC 74. George St. Pierre (fresh off a TKO loss to Matt Serra) was back in the octagon set to face Josh Koscheck, a fighter who many thought would be a troublesome stylistic matchup for St Pierre. Prior to the fight, there was no denying Koshchecks wrestling pedigree as a 4 time Collegiate All American and Division 1 National Champion. But would this be enough to stifle the tenacious takedowns and ground & pound of St Pierre? Everything leading up to this fight would say……well possibly. Koscheck was coming off an impressive victory over Diego Sanchez in which he used a combination of strikes and take downs to dominate the Nightmare. St. Pierre meanwhile had just suffered his first career TKO loss to the hands of 11-1 underdog Matt Serra, losing his welterweight title amist a backdrop of personal issues. The outcome of St. Pierre vs Koscheck at UFC 74 would tell us exactly where each fighter stood in the WW division and who needed to go back to the drawing board. The fight would ultimately end in a decision victory for St Pierre. A victory in which he dominated almost the entire fight putting Koscheck on his back at will. Josh’s striking was wild & loose with looping right hands and lunging jabs. St Pierre’s striking was crisp and was tactically used to set up takedowns. The only glimmer of hope for Josh was late in the first round when a failed guillotine attempt from St Pierre was turned into a Koscheck takedown. Ultimately, this fight showed just how advanced St Pierre’s skills sets were and how much Koscheck needed to improve if he ever wanted a shot at the WW title.
Fast forward to today, GSP has gone on a 6 fight win streak, make that 6 fight domination streak in which he hasnt lost a round. The recent destruction of BJ Penn, Jon Fitch, and Dan Hardy showed just how well rounded and how (to make up my own term) fight-smart St Pierre has become. He and his team (Greg Jackson, Firas Zahabi) put together the perfect gameplans to dominate his opponents and at the same time neutralize their strengths. Koscheck on the other hand, has gone 6-2 since the first meeting with St. Pierre. With losses coming to Thiago Alves and Paulo Thiago. Josh took the Thiago Alves fight on only 2 weeks notice and Alves has arguably been in the top 5 of the welterweight division for the past 3 years. Koscheck rebounded from the Alves loss with a devastating knokout win against Yoshiyuki Yoshida where we got to see the true power Koscheck can pack in his punches. However the holes in Koschecks striking game would be exposed months later when (while searching for a right hand KO) Koscheck walked directly into a night ending uppercut from Paulo Thiago. Since the loss to Thiago, Koscheck has put up some impressive victories against top strikers Anthony “Rumble” Johnson & Paul Daley, showing that he can perform well against world class strikers.
So, whats going to happen Saturday night at UFC 124? Although Koschecks recent wins over top strikers are impressive, both of those wins were against one dimensional fighters. Fighters who wont make you worry about takedowns or submissions. Unfortunately for Josh Koscheck, this isnt going to be the case against St. Pierre who is an excellent striker, elite wrestler, and can finish with submissions. This triple threat from GSP will keep Koscheck on his toes and force him out of his comfort zone. Although Koschecks strking has improved since their first fight I dont see him feeling comfortable in any aspect of this fight. In my mind, Koschecks only chance to win this fight is if he somehow connects with one of his power windmill right hands. But knowing how prepared St. Pierre is for fights I cant imagine he hasnt taken this threat into consideration and strategically planned accordingly. I see St Pierre taking advantage of the weak leg kicks and loose striking from Koscheck to throw him to the mat. From there St Pierre will imposs his will and use his unique ability to leverage his body weight to frusturate and tire Koscheck. I see St Pierre using relentless ground and pound ultimately finishing the fight by submission. After not finishing Hardy, St. Pierre will make sure he gets the finish tomorrow night.
Final Shadow Verdict: George St. Pierre via Kimura Round 3