Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) welterweights Josh Koscheck and Jake Ellenberger will go to war this Saturday night (Feb. 28, 2015) at UFC 184 inside the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.
After losing his last three appearances, Koscheck took some time off. While taking losses in three straight fights is never a good thing, Koscheck's quality of competition has to be respected, as each of his opponents are currently ranked inside the top three according to the UFC's rankings.
Similarly, Ellenberger has dropped his last three bouts to quality opposition, but his performances were a bit more worrying. In each of his losses, Ellenberger seemed to lack any sort of fire or motivation, leaving many fans questioning whether he still has it.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for each man.
Key Wins: Mike Pierce (UFC 143), Matt Hughes (UFC 135), Anthony Johnson (UFC 106)
Key Losses: Tyron Woodley (UFC 167), Robbie Lawler (UFC 157), Johny Hendricks (UFC on FOX 3)
Keys to Victory: Koscheck is one of the best wrestlers to ever step inside the Octagon, as his blast double leg has taken some of the best off their feet, including George St. Pierre and Johny Hendricks. In addition, Koscheck has always had some dangerous knockout power, particularly in his right hand.
In order for Koscheck to claw his way back into the win column, he needs to pressure Ellenberger. As mentioned, "The Juggernaut's" aggressiveness has seriously declined in recent fights, which could indicate some issues with his confidence. In that situation, it's best not to allow Ellenberger to build any early momentum.
Even if that's not the case, Koscheck should be keeping the power puncher on his back foot. Ellenberger likes to lunge forward with looping heaters, which can only be done when there's plenty of space.
If Ellenberger is pressured into the fence, Koscheck will be in prime position to land his overhand or takedown. Or, he could look for his high kick against the cage, like he did numerous times against Johny Hendricks.
By making it a habit to pressure and close the distance on Ellenberger, Koscheck ensures that his opponent will be anxious to strike once he gets back to his preferred range. Since Koscheck knows punches are likely about to come his way, he can be ready to counter Ellenberger's forward movement with a takedown.
Key Wins: Nate Marquardt (UFC 158), Jake Shields (UFC Fight Night 25), Mike Pyle (UFC 108)
Key Losses: Robbie Lawler (UFC 173), Rory MacDonald (UFC on FOX 8), Kelvin Gastelum (UFC 180)
Keys to Victory: Ellenberger is one of the division's most athletic fighters. He may have a wrestling background, but Ellenberger usually employs it in reverse, giving him and his explosive fists the opportunity to expand upon his 18 knockout victories.
Win or lose, it's vital that Ellenberger doesn't put forth a hesitant showing. Koscheck may be a powerful puncher and wrestler, but Ellenberger has gone toe-to-toe with some of the division's finest. This is not the time for a patient game plan.
Instead, Ellenberger need to intelligently pressure Koscheck. Rather than swinging wild hooks, Ellenberger should make use of his work with Edmond Tarverdyan and keep his feet underneath him as he boxes. Then, Ellenberger can more easily defend the takedown, while keeping his eyes open for opportunities to explode.
Additionally, Ellenberger should be ready to strike with his knee strikes after defending the takedown. Ellenberger's sprawl is incredibly quick and powerful early on, meaning there's a decent chance he can stuff Koscheck's takedown at the beginning of the fight.
Koscheck is not used to having his takedowns stuffed. Since it's an uncommon position for the four-time All-American to find himself in, he may have defensive flaws or a moment of vulnerability, like the one Robbie Lawler capitalized on.
Bottom Line: Victory is vital for the career of either fighter.
Koscheck has been with UFC for a very long time, since nearly the start of his professional career. A product of the first season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), it's highly unlikely that Koscheck will ever be directly cut. Even with a loss here, Koscheck has at least one more chance.
With a win, Koscheck is back near the top of the division. If he performs well on Saturday, Koscheck could have a number of marketable match ups in his future. Koscheck has a name and decent drawing ability, two things UFC has great need of at the moment.
On the other hand, Ellenberger does not have Koscheck's history with the company. Should "The Juggernaut" lose, there's a decent chance he'll find himself on the chopping block.
While a win over Koscheck is important for Ellenberger's career, it has to be the start of a big win streak. Otherwise, fans will not see the knockout artist as much of a contender. It's going to take some work before fight fans forget these recent performances.
At UFC 184, Josh Koscheck makes his return from a layoff opposite Jake Ellenberger. Which man will leave the Octagon with the win?