Josh Koscheck is stuck in what I call "Rich Franklin Territory."
It's an inhospitable, limbo-like state where talented mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters can find themselves after losing to reigning champions twice in one-sided bouts, yet are clearly among the top five in the division, and will probably be favored against almost anyone but the top dog.
That makes for a different kind of matchmaking altogether.
Koscheck is still too talented to be risked against a red-hot prospect such as a Rory MacDonald at this point, because he might win and yet there's little to no buzz for him to fight for the title again (albeit the UFC 143 main event of Nick Diaz vs. Carlos Condit, and George St. Pierre's uncertain return, may change that).
That being said, Mike Pierce -- who he fights tonight (Feb. 4, 2012) at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada -- is a hard-nosed, honest performer who is exceptionally durable. He closes fights hard, and nearly knocked out Jon Fitch in the final round of their bout. Pierce's wrestling chops are good, just not nearly as high-level as Koscheck's.
Simply put, he's got his work cut out for him this evening in "Sin City."
Follow me after the jump for a complete breakdown of the UFC 143 fight between Josh Koscheck vs. Mike Pierce:
Koscheck's hands are the best addition to his game in recent years, as he's become increasingly comfortable (and dangerous) standing with opponents and daring them to exchange. He packs big-time power in his right hand, and can deliver solid kicks, as well.
Pierce really isn't on his level standing, but he is a willing plugger when forced to trade, and at times Koscheck can be caught in exchanges. Koscheck will be exceptionally difficult to take down, as he has amazing balance and agility, something you'd expect from a four-time NCAA All-American and champ. Pierce has to create something and exploit it, be it a trade of big punches, or a scramble where he can grab a submission.
Styles make fights, and this one tilts entirely Koscheck's way.
Pierce's durability -- he's never been stopped in four decision losses -- and hard-nosed approach make him a threat throughout. Koscheck has the luxury of being able to test the stand up waters first, and then shoot for a takedown, which he will get pretty much at will. That's a big advantage, and Josh will mix in both strikes and ground work to shut down Pierce en route to a comfortable decision win.
Koscheck via unanimous decision
Be sure to join MMAmania.com this evening for LIVE, detailed UFC 143 results of all the "Diaz vs. Condit" pay-per-view (PPV) action. It will include blow-by-blow coverage of the Facebook video stream, FX "Prelims" bouts, and of course, the PPV broadcast. We'll start RIGHT HERE at around 7:00 p.m. ET and carry straight on through early Saturday morning.
See you later!
Jason Probst can be reached at twitter.com/jasonprobst or Jason@jasonprobst.com