Fans love to hate Josh Koscheck.
The reasons people have for disliking the perennial welterweight contender go all the way back to the first season of The Ultimate Fighter, where he made life miserable for Chris Leben. Yet, there are many other reasons why people don't like Kos.
When Koscheck first started fighting in the UFC, he came in with great wrestling skills and athleticism, but little else. As a result, Koscheck was labled a "lay and pray" fighter, or otherwise, "another boring wrestler."
Koscheck, the natural talent that he is, wasn't satisfied with being a wrestler, and focused intensely on improving his striking skills. In fights against Dustin Hazelett, Paulo Thiago and Thiago Alves, it seemed that Koscheck was only willing to use his wrestling as a last resort.
Koscheck is an explosive and powerful striker, but tends to take a few punches. He was rocked by Hazelett, beaten up by Alves, and knocked down by Thiago.
After losing fights to Georges St. Pierre and Thiago Alves, the new criticism of Koscheck was that he had neglected his wrestling too much in an effort to be a more exciting fighter. Now people began to dislike Koscheck for neglecting the wrestling style that Koscheck was criticized for employing earlier in his career.
It seemed like no matter what Koscheck did, people would still hate him.
Of course it was no surprise that Koscheck was booed last year following his ground and pound victory over Chris Lytle; He'd gone back to his wrestling, and was unwilling to trade punches with Lytle.
Last night against Anthony Johnson, we saw what was arguably one of Koscheck's best performances. You wouldn't know it from the chatter online though, as many fans seem convinced that Koscheck was faking his injuries, and later intentionally tried to poke Johnson in the eye.
I tend to disagree with those complaints. It was a strange fight to be sure, but I think the most important things to get out of the fight were not about Koscheck's character, but about his improvements as a fighter.
There were still flaws in his striking, but it seemed like Koscheck was finally beginning to evolve into a martial artist.
He changed levels frequently to make Johnson afraid of the takedown, and he set up his shots with strikes. By doing these things, he'll become more effective in both areas.
When he succeeded in getting Johnson down, he also used his BJJ skills to pass guard and secure the submission.
Wrestling, striking, and jiu jitsu mixed together seamlessly, that's what Koscheck showed last night, and that's what works in MMA.
Koscheck is a former NCAA Division 1 wrestling champion, and yet was out-wrestled by Georges St. Pierre. The reason to me seems fairly simple; GSP's wrestling is the most effective in MMA because he is so well rounded.
When a fighter fights against Matt Hughes, they're only worried about the shot and the takedown, and so their job is a lot simpler. It's a lot harder to stop a double-leg when you're worried about getting punched in the face.
With Koscheck's new improvements, he's clearly put himself on the short list of fighters at welterweight who might be able to cause serious problems for the champion, Georges St. Pierre.
Of course, for all of his improvements as a fighter, people still don't like Koscheck. He's the "bad guy" in a division ruled by the ultimate "good guy" of MMA.
Georges St. Pierre has embraced his place in MMA as a role model and a champion. He's the baby face, the poster boy, the guy on the Wheaties box, the bubblegum pop superstar, the clean-cut "All-American" Canadian. Koscheck isn't.
Koscheck doesn't care about his image, or what the fans think of him, or if he does, he maybe really wants people to hate him.
While GSP is polite and tries to be respectful, Koscheck says whatever he wants to say.
Yesterday, he threw his teammate Mike Swick under the bus when he said that Dan Hardy hasn't fought anybody good. Koscheck doesn't really seem to care about what other fighters or fans think of him. He tends to come across as cocky and arrogant.
Even if you can get over all of those things about Koscheck, you're probably offended by his bleach-blonde hair.
Personally, I don't mind Koscheck as much as other people do. He's cocky, but that comes from confidence. His comments are almost rude to the point of brutality, but if so, it's because Koscheck is brutally honest.
More than that though, Koscheck knows that the UFC needs "bad guys," and he's more than happy to play that role. He is the heel of the welterweight division, and eventually he'll fight GSP once again in another clash of "good vs. evil."