Tonight, “Kos” Josh Koscheck (15-4) will step into the Octagon to fight for the welterweight championship for a second time against dominant champion “Rush” Georges St. Pierre (20-2). The card beneath them is filled with several quality match-ups featuring fellow welterweights “The Pitbull” Thiago Alves (16-7) and “Doomsday” John Howard (14-5), lightweights “Mongoose” Jim Miller (18-2), Charles Oliveira (14-0), “Daddy” Joe Stevenson (31-10), and Mac Danzig (19-8-1), and heavyweights “Skyscraper” Stefan Struve (17-4) and “Big Sexy” Sean McCorkle (10-0), but the bout may as well stand alone atop the Pay-Per-View card. The hype surrounding this title fight is of a magnitude unseen since UFC 100, eclipsing even the Chael Sonnen (24-11-1)/”The Spider” Anderson Silva (27-4) fight at UFC 117. This fight is the perfect storm of marketing factors that hits every angle a fight possibly can. GSP is a beloved champion fighting on his home soil against “Kos”, a figure so easy to hate that his presence alone incites the rage of MMA fans – especially Canadian ones. They are fighting a rematch backed not only by the UFC marketing dynamo but by a season’s worth of animosity created by The Ultimate Fighter. It even exploits the international angle by pitting an American against an international opponent. The UFC could easily have raised their PPV price another 10 bucks and scrapped every other bout on the card and still set buy rate records with this fight, and the fact that these two athletes truly are the best two welterweights in the world ensures that the fight will live up to what should be the UFC’s crowning marketing achievement.
At First Glance: The opposing coaches format of TUF has never worked so well. Not even the “Hendo” Dan Henderson (26-8) vs. “The Count” Michael Bisping (20-3) or “The World’s Most Dangerous Man” Ken Shamrock (28-14-2) against “Huntington Beach Bad Boy” Tito Ortiz (15-8-1) rivalries have led to events with this much outside emotion invested in one fight. This is partially fueled by the realization that Josh Koscheck, easily as arrogant as Bisping and as hated by the fans as Shamrock, has a real chance of winning the title. St. Pierre hasn’t even come close to losing a round since he lost the belt at UFC 69, including during the three round fight where he first met Koscheck. “Kos” for his part has improved ten fold since the pair’s first meeting. It is that real danger that “the good guy” could be defeated that makes this fight so electric.
In Depth: Though far more even than the first match-up from a skill set comparison, Koscheck still comes up short in every area of this fight. In their first meeting, GSP not only out-wrestled “Kos”, who is one of the most decorated college wrestlers in NCAA history, he made it look easy and left Josh Koscheck looking winded for the only time in his UFC career. It was a defeat so complete that Koscheck has harbored a deep animosity toward St. Pierre ever since. Koscheck has improved his stand-up as well but his progress is again eclipsed by his opponent. GSP is a third degree Kyokushin black belt and has finished eight of the 20 men he has defeated with strikes. Koscheck has a puncher’s chance and if he had learned to blend his wrestling and striking together, he may be able to go tit for tat in the wrestling department with GSP, but five rounds is a very long time to compete at the pace “Rush” sets in his fights, even for Koscheck.
The Wild Card: The crowd will play a massive role in this fight. In Canada, particularly Montreal, Georges St. Pierre is regarded as a hero and has surpassed, according to some, even hockey legend Wayne Gretzky as a national icon. Almost everywhere, particularly in Montreal where he insulted the entire Canadian nation, Josh Koscheck is regarded as an ass who needs his face punched in until he is no longer able to run his mouth. The reactions of the crowd will have an effect of these two men as they fight if not through the emotional toll of raining boos/cheers then through the sheer physical impact of the volume they generate. When teams play the Louisiana State University (LSU) Tigers at home in college football, players say the crowd is so loud that the sound bears down on them like a weight and the stadium once grew so loud that the vibrations measured a 1.2 on the Richter Scale. That is how real the effect of a zealous crowd can be. The Bell Centre may not hold the number of people that an SEC stadium does, but it is enclosed and there are few fans in the world more emotional than Canadian GSP fans. If either fighter falters due to either the physical or emotional impact of the crowd’s reactions, expect him to lose in short order. There is no room for error against either fighter.
The Verdict: There is something to be said for home field advantage especially when a fighter is superior to begin with. “Kos” may feed off of the crowd’s negative energy but it’s doubtful it will be enough to overcome not only the support the crowd will shower on GSP, but St. Pierre’s superior stand up and overall MMA grappling skills. Josh Koscheck will certainly make a fight of it and may give the local fans a scare or two along the way, but Georges will wear him down, control him, and finish him the way he has nearly every other fighter he has faced. St. Pierre via TKO, Round 3