It's a 170-pound bout that will be decided, essentially, by Koscheck’s ability to execute his gameplan better. Nobody outside of Georges St. Pierre has proven capable of planting "Kos" on the mat with a takedown thus far, and Lawler wouldn’t even think of trying, such is his love for the standing violence the game brings.
This bout, therefore, hinges entirely on how much confidence Koscheck has in his stand up and his ability to implement it. Like every great wrestler, he’s got a "Plan B" and can switch gears if he needs it. The question is, will he be able to do it in time before "Ruthless" strikes with one of his trademark bombs?
Check out a complete breakdown of the UFC 157 pay-per-view (PPV) main card mixed martial arts (MMA) match up between Josh Koscheck vs. Robbie Lawler below:
Lawler’s highlight-reel of violent knockouts overshadow an excellent blend of takedown defense and athleticism. He’s one of the tougher guys in the sport to take down and has excellent upper-body strength. Equally important in his career has been a penchant for tactical mistakes every bit as prominent as his ability to explode – Lawler can lose fights he looks like he shouldn’t, and lose them when on paper he should win.
At times he has seemed unmotivated and discouraged, and tactically adrift.
Another huge factor is the weight – Lawler isn’t a small middleweight, and walks around well over 200 pounds between fights. Dropping down in weight is always a tough proposition, especially when it’s a weight a guy was in his early 20s that he naturally grew out of. That’s a big difference from dropping a weight class that you might have been more naturally suited for to begin with (such as Demian Maia or Randy Couture).
In fact, I think it’s probably the biggest factor in this fight, as I simply don’t think Lawler is a welterweight any more.
Koscheck has to play into that, especially where grinding grappling is involved, because a long-term combination of clinches, chained takedown attempts and cardio-taxing tie-ups are precisely what brings out Lawler’s worst traits, where he pretty much goes adrift.
Put Lawler into a hard-nosed striking match and he comes alive, but suck him into a long grapple-fest, or a stale tactical pose-off (like the snoozer he delivered against Lorenz Larkin) and you can frustrate him, despite his excellent athleticism and considerable natural gifts.
Koscheck’s in a weird stop at 170 pounds, what I call "Rich Franklin Syndrome." He’s lost twice to the existing champ in clear-cut fashion, yet is probably a top-five fighter in the division. He’s really got nothing to lose at this point and there has to be considerable pressure on him to deliver impressive stuff, especially with teammate Jon Fitch being released from Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) earlier this week despite a stellar career with the promotion.
Don’t think there wasn’t an intended message behind it from the UFC – be exciting or get the boot. Winning is secondary to this. And if you don’t think so, ask yourself why Fitch got released while Leonard Garcia -- who has lost five of his last six -- is still on the roster.
Koscheck could probably stand with Lawler and win, provided he mixes in kicks and picks his spots well, which is something he can readily do. Pushing Lawler against the cage and grinding him down might be a winning strategy, but you have to wonder if "Kos" will be affected by the release of his long-time buddy Fitch, who employed a similar strategy for years, only to get kicked to the curb.
Lawler pretty much has everything to gain in this bout, and will be looking to uncork a big strike early as he always is. Kos will circle and feel the situation out early, gauging the range before getting his one-two combinations and occasional kicks going, especially to Lawler’s lead right leg, which will disrupt his centerline and balance. "Kos" will also use a quick shot or two to score tie-ups against the cage and early takedowns, but Lawler’s excellent athleticism will allow him to spring back up.
However, it will frustrate Lawler to the point where he’s reduced to headhunting and not sure if "Kos" is going to strike or shoot for takedowns, and he’ll be left guessing as "Kos" mixes in jabs, crosses and thudding leg kicks to tire out Lawler. Down the stretch, "Kos" will close the show with increased accuracy and growing confidence as Lawler tires, getting taken down and ground-and-pounded out in the third.
Koscheck by technical knockout.
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the UFC 157 PPV main card action, which is slated to start promptly at 10 p.m. ET. Up-to-the-minute updates and fight-by-fight coverage will begin to flow earlier than that, however, around 6:30 p.m. ET with the "Prelims" bouts on Facebook and FX.
Jason Probst can be reached at twitter.com/jasonprobst