Revenge is the backstory of the UFC on FOX 3 co main event later this evening (May 5, 2012) at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Johny Hendricks emerged from his 12-second wipeout of Welterweight stalwart and perennial number one contender Jon Fitch as the hottest 170-pound hopeful. Taking on long-time Fitch training partner, Josh Koscheck, this match should answer some of the questions about Hendricks that people hoped the Fitch match would.
Namely, how can the standout college wrestler deal with another great grappler with the tools to negate him and force adjustments?
Koscheck has seemed somewhat gun-shy or, perhaps, just a tad flat since returning from his five-round drubbing at the hands of champ Georges St. Pierre. Before wiping out faded ex-champ Matt Hughes, "Kos" looked a little cautious, even getting outstruck on the feet. He also struggled against Mike Pierce in a very close split decision last February.
Koscheck remains one of the best combinations of high-octane wrestling and big-time striking ability in the division. And his incredible takedown ability is always a welcome go-to, even though he's transitioned largely into a stand up artist in recent fights, given his increasing comfort with that element of the game.
Hendricks is a much harder assessment. The one-punch blowout of Fitch was great for his career, but it wasn't the kind of showcase to distance him from struggles he's had earlier in his transition to the sport. At times, he looked like a talented wrestler still putting the rest of his game together.
Koscheck has a huge opportunity to prove Hendricks is better than the green version that was decisioned by Rick Story, or looked uninspiring in World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) and early Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) performances. It's also a huge chance for Koscheck to remain relevant in a division where he, Jake Shields and Fitch are clearly the old guard of the welterweight division, and the UFC wants to replace them with exciting up-and-comers it can market for title shots.
Over a long enough timeline, youth is always served in the fight game, and that points to a Hendricks win. However, the guess here is that Hendricks' style plays right into Kos' strengths. First, as a southpaw, Hendricks tends to be a bit stiff standing and telegraphing his shots, and Koscheck has an outstanding right hand, which is precisely the tool you need to beat a lefty. Kos also has amazing hips, and a world-class sprawl that allows him to make the prospect of planting him on the mat something only the most elite takedown artists in the world could reasonably attempt.
Koscheck's counter right, movement and ability to step in and deliver jarring counter-shots are key in this fight. He's also got to show more comfort in taking punches -- he looked like the aftereffects of the broken orbital bone in the GSP fight were still affecting him in the Pierce bout -- because Hendricks will be pushing and pressuring. Hendricks has got to dictate the action early, and I think Kos will respond, winning the striking exchanges and throwing in a statement takedown or two en route to a unanimous decision win.
Koscheck via decision
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See you later!
Jason Probst can be reached at twitter.com/jasonprobst or firstname.lastname@example.org.