UFC 143: Josh Koscheck vs. Mike Pierce Early Breakdown
With Georges St. Pierre out indefinitely and many questions surrounding his return, the welterweight division is now as up in the air as any.
UFC 143 will go a long way in clearing up the title picture with a pair of important fights at 170.
While Carlos Condit vs. Nick Diaz is sure to get plenty of hype as the main event and the interim title on the line, Josh Koscheck's bout with Mike Pierce will also play a role in the current landscape of the division.
Koscheck, a name everyone is familiar with, looks to get his second victory on the comeback trail after being thoroughly battered by Georges St. Pierre.
Pierce, a highly underrated opponent, looks to finally get some of the recognition he deserves and make a case of his own that he is a threat in the welterweight division.
With so much on the line and the interesting clash of styles that exists, Koscheck-Pierce is sure to be an interesting fight.
Here's how they stack up.
Anytime you have a matchup of two elite wrestlers, the possibility of a stand up war actually increases. With both guys being so gifted on the ground, it is often the better striker that holds the greatest advantage as they cancel each other out on the ground.
Josh Koscheck has truly gone from a one-dimensional wrestler to a threatening striker in his time with the UFC.
Koshceck's overhand right is difficult for anyone to weather, and just landing it once can change the outcome of the fight.
While Koscheck has struggled with dynamic strikers in the past, Mike Pierce does not appear to pose that threat.
Pierce is an excellent wrestler who reminds you of Matt Hughes when you see him fight. His striking is also much like Hughes.
Pierce will not be able to consistently pump the jab like Georges St. Pierre or possess the speed of Thiago Alves, but he does have one punch power.
The stocky Pierce has shown that he is able to pack some power into his hooks if you allow him to get on the inside. Koscheck would be wise to use the strategy GSP employed to pick him apart in their fight.
Keeping Pierce at bay with his jabs and movement could be key for Koscheck in this fight.
Here's where this fight gets interesting.
Both of these guys are impressive wrestlers who like to take the opponent down and impose their will. Both are Division I wrestlers used to owning a significant advantage in takedowns over their opponent.
Koscheck is known for having some of the most explosive takedowns in the sport, and it will be interesting to see if he even attempts to take down Pierce.
Pierce is not quite as explosive as Koscheck in his takedowns, but what he lacks in explosiveness he makes up for with tenacity. Pierce is not adverse to sticking with a takedown even if it is initially unsuccessful and loves wearing down his opponents against the fence.
Neither of these fighters have spent much time in their careers on their backs, so whoever can get the takedown could be the x-factor in the matchup.
Koscheck could score the takedown first if he is able to mix his takedown attempts with his superior striking.
As mentioned previously, both Josh Koscheck and Mike Pierce are former Division I wrestlers and wrestling is definitely their strength.
If this fight hits the ground it is anyone's game.
Koscheck has out-grappled many of his opponents on his way to a 14-5 record in the Octagon. Aside from Georges St. Pierre (who largely chose to strike with him) Koscheck has never fought a wrestler quite like Pierce, so it isn't guaranteed he will be able to easily dominate the fight on the ground.
Pierce is a tenacious wrestler who loves to use his ground and pound to set up passes, then use his new position to do even more damage to his opponent. Pierce mixes up his strikes well on the ground using elbows, body shots and knees to wear down his opponents.
Koscheck is also a bully on the ground and excels in transitioning to dominant positions. While easily out-grappling strikers is one thing, Pierce presents a challenge that we've never seen Koscheck face before.
Look for Pierce to really put on the pressure and truly test Koscheck on the ground.
Neither of these guys would be considered Jiu-Jitsu specialists and submissions are not a large part of either fighters' game plan.
However, with both fighters being dead even in the wrestling department, the ability to lock in a submission could be the thing that separates them on the ground.
Koscheck is the owner of five submission victories in the UFC but it should be noted that only one of them was after the year 2006. When he choked out Anthony Johnson at UFC 106, Koscheck showed that he can sink in the rear naked choke if he gets his opponent's back.
Mike Pierce has one submission victory to his name, albeit a rare submission. A straight armbar against Amilcar Alves at UFC 118 was a product of wearing his opponent down for two rounds before locking in the submission.
Its not likely that this fight ends with a submission, but if it does it would most likely be Koscheck getting his hand raised.
In terms of overall fights, Pierce and Koscheck are in the same ballpark (Pierce has 17 pro fights, Koscheck has 21 pro fights to his name).
In terms of big fights. Koscheck has a huge advantage.
It is very rare to see Koscheck as a preliminary fight since he has headlined events and even fought for the title. Mike Pierce has been a preliminary card staple. Pierce may not have Octagon jitters, (he has seven fights in the organization) but he's never been featured like he will be against Koscheck.
How this impacts the fight remains to be seen, but Pierce could very well clam up with all of the exposure or allow the extra attention to give him a boost to pull off the upset.
While it appears that Koscheck has the advantage in almost every aspect of the fight, this fight could still be very close.
Pierce is a tough out for anyone and gave Jon Fitch and Johny Hendricks all they could handle in his losses to them.
If Koscheck performs to the best of his ability and uses his improved striking to control the pace, keep his distance and pick Pierce apart, this fight is his for the taking.
If Pierce is able to turn the stand up game into a slug fest and score the take down, he has the skill set to pull the upset and emerge as a new contender for the welterweight crown.
With the cardio of both fighters and their similar styles this has the makings of a war that could easily go the distance. It's cliche but whoever wants it more will come out on top.
A loss for either would really set them back, but if Koscheck loses, a move to middleweight appears to be imminent.
A loss for Pierce would cement his status as a preliminary card gatekeeper.
Not exactly where he wants to be.
Prediction: Koscheck by Unanimous Decision