Former UFC two-time welterweight champion Matt Hughes was hoping to potentially go out on a high note.
But recent title challenger Josh Koscheck had other plans.
For the first four minutes of their UFC 135 co-main event fight last night (September 24, 2011), Hughes looked absolutely terrific. That was, until he got knocked completely unconscious by The Ultimate Fighter season one villain.
So how was "Kos" able to shake off the rust and put away the UFC Hall of Famer? And more importantly, where do both men go from here?
Hughes had stated before the fight that he'd been really focusing on his footwork and striking in the lead-up to this fight and it showed early. He got off with a straight lead left jab, repeatedly finding a home under Koscheck's right eye, the same eye that was smashed to pieces by Georges St. Pierre at UFC 124.
As the round progressed, Hughes switched from the lead left jab to a lead left hook, adding a slight looping motion to the punch to create a little more power. He continued to find a home for it, but this was a more risky strike to throw as if left him vulnerable to Koscheck's powerful right hand.
Hughes became even more confident, mixing in a right uppercut and actually forced Koscheck to attempt a takedown but he was able to stuff it easily with a right underhook and blasted "Kos" with a knee on the exit.
Just when the Denver crowd began to believe in the upset, Koscheck destroyed their dreams with some uppercuts in the clinch followed by a crisp short overhand right that wobbled the former champion. Hughes' defense went down the toilet after this and he continued to eat punches as he tried to regain his senses.
Hughes fell to his back into guard after failing with a desperation knee and this set up the finish of the fight.
Notice how Koscheck doesn't wade in recklessly. While standing over the Hall of Famer, he throws big overhand rights which sneak above Hughes' outstretched hands. He also holds Hughes' head in place with his right hand to create a more stationary target. Once he keeps Hughes in place, that's when he does the real damage.
Hughes is hurt badly from those overhand rights and when he turns away from the punishment, Koscheck drops repeated right hammer fists until he knocks the former champ completely out cold with just one second remaining in the first round.
For Matt Hughes, there's not much to fault about his performance. He looked terrific, showcasing the best stand-up he'd used in his entire career. He actually caused Koscheck's eye to swell up a bit in the first two minutes and was well on his way to winning the first round before he got clipped. His footwork was excellent and it gave him multiple angles to really sneak in his attacks without a rebuttal from the blonde-curled bomber.
While many are expecting Hughes to retire, he didn't admit as much in his post-fight interview. There is likely one last fight he wants before he calls it quits and that is Dennis Hallman. Hallman is still employed by the UFC and holds two lightning-fast submissions of Hughes from early in his career. If there is any fight left for the former two-time champion, Hallman is the stain on his record he wants erased.
For Josh Koscheck, he still needs to work on his evasion and striking defense. Against an opponent with more power, he could have been in some serious trouble early in that fight. Once he shook off some of the cage rust, though, he really came alive with his right uppercut and his right hook. His finishing instincts were terrific as well, putting away his foe once he had him hurt.
Koscheck previously stated that he didn't have anyone interesting to challenge at welterweight, but now he most certainly does. His name is Jake Ellenberger and he just destroyed Jake Shields one week ago. Another option would be Charlie Brenneman if he can get past Anthony Johnson this Saturday night.
If he doesn't like either of those two options, "Kos" will simply have to play waiting game as the welterweight division continues to sort itself out. With his finish last night, he's absolutely earned a fight against another top 170-pounder.
So what do you think Maniacs?
Should Hughes call it a career after his second straight knockout defeat? What would you do if you were in his shoes?
All gifs by Zombie Prophet via IronForgesIron.com.