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Nowhere Man: Josh Koscheck faces a difficult future after UFC 135 and Matt Hughes, win or lose

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[Having fought for the promotion professionally since 2005, Josh Koscheck holds an odd record in the UFC for the most wins without a championship — a dubious honor he shares with teammate Jon Fitch. After UFC 135, the four-time NCAA Division I All-American rejoins a welterweight division where he's no longer a viable title contender. Among dominant champions and deep talent, where does Koscheck fit in the overall UFC picture?]

Had Josh Koscheck been born a little earlier (or later), he would likely be a UFC champion.

Unfortunately, the heavy-handed American Kickboxing Academy alpha male has had to battle his way through a division that has seen only three title changes in the last seven years. Matt Hughes and Georges St. Pierre have largely dominated the welterweight ranks during Koscheck's entire UFC career — save a brief "Cinderella Man" run by Matt Serra. Even worse, Koscheck has fought for the title only once, but lost to GSP twice in such one-sided thrashings that Dana White won't allow him to challenge for the championship as long as "Rush" holds the belt.

So, after his short-notice fight with a rapidly aging Matt Hughes, what's left for Koscheck?

Again, he can't challenge for the title. And after a blistering five-year, 18-fight pace, Koscheck is still in his prime, but without much left to do in his weight class. He's too good to be pitted against young prospects like Rory MacDonald or John Hathaway, but not bad enough to waste time with sub-par fighters who aren't "Top 25" at the very least.

At 33 years old, the options left for Koscheck look pretty grim, with an utter longshot possibly being his best, most secure, and advantageous route to a UFC championship.

Seeking another shot at the UFC welterweight title

For Josh Koscheck, this is perhaps the most difficult path he can take, given the welterweight division's strict hierarchy. Even if Koscheck notches an impressive win over Matt Hughes this weekend, he'll simply have to wait until GSP loses the title before he can ever be "in the mix" again. Of course, Koscheck could considerably help his case by campaigning for (and winning) fights against B.J. Penn, Nick Diaz, Jake Ellenberger, or even Jake Shields.

However, Dana White has made it clear that he's less likely to reward fighters who won't fight teammates, and Koscheck's long-standing infamous refusal to fight a title eliminator against Jon Fitch has done his career no favors.

Avenging losses to Thiago Alves and Paulo Thiago

While rematching Alves and Thiago won't do anything for Koscheck in the immediate future, there's always value in rankings and credibility for a fighter in attempting to "get back that loss" that they suffered earlier in their career. With Thiago, Koscheck took the fight on just two weeks notice. In his loss to Alves, Koscheck claimed an early stoppage.

However, of the two matches, only Thiago makes sense, as he's currently in the win column with his victory in Rio.

Moving up in weight to the UFC middleweight division

While Koscheck has competed in this weight class before, moving back up a division seems pretty risky for a guy who got boxed to near blindness by a smaller, younger welterweight in St. Pierre. Whatever size and strength advantage Koscheck normally enjoys in his fights will be greatly lessened when he matches up with elite natural middleweights like Michael Bisping, Yushin Okami, Chael Sonnen, Mark Munoz, and Rousimar Palhares. However, it does give Koscheck a fresh start and a batch of interesting opponents, although the risk for losses seems greater.

And of course, if Koscheck did manage to quickly climb to the division's peak, he would have to hope that Anderson Silva was either well past his prime, or out of the division entirely, competing in the light heavyweight ranks.

Moving down in weight to the UFC lightweight division

Although the conversation has long since been forgotten, Koscheck once openly contemplated a drop down to 155 pounds to fight then-champion B.J. Penn:

"I just want to be a world champion, whether it be at 155, 170, 185, wherever," Koscheck said. "I believe I have a lot of fights left in me. With my work ethic and the training partners I have and the coaches I have, I believe some day that dream is going to come true."

"You never know," he said, beaming, when confronted about his ability to make the lightweight limit of 155 pounds. "If people would want to see me fight B.J. Penn at 155 for the title, because there is really nobody there for him to fight, I’d do it."

"I know B.J. very well, but business is business," Koscheck said. "We’re friends, but at the end of the day, it’s about making money together. If the fans would want to see it, I’d suck it up and I’d live that life to where I’d do whatever I have to do to make 155."

Emphasis mine.

However, that conversation at Yahoo Sports took place over three years ago. Koscheck may not even be able to cut that weight, as his 33-year-old body has likely settled into his welterweight frame. But, if Koscheck could make the cut to 155 pounds, the lightweight division's elite fighters would have a very steep challenger on their hands.

Of those four choices, the drop to lightweight seems to be the safest bet for Josh Koscheck to bully his way to a UFC championship reign. But if he can't walk down that path (and I personally think that the weight cut alone would be a significant, Anthony Johnson-esque hurdle), his other three options won't change one sobering fact. Josh Koscheck could very well become the UFC's Nowhere Man, stuck spinning his wheels until the divisions change around him, as his prime athletic years continue to slowly tick away.

 

[McKinley Noble is a staff editor at GamePro and an MMA conspiracy theorist. Follow his Twitter account for crazy talk, 1990s movie references, and general weirdness. Or you could just stalk him on Google.]

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