UFC 124: Will Georges St. Pierre vs. Josh Koscheck Live Up to Hype?
The Ultimate Fighter is a bit like a sunset, or phone-cam video of a Lindsay Lohan bender. Predictable, and a bit repetitive, but still exciting.
This season was no exception. Aside from TUF 12's crop of talented and interesting fighters, coaches Georges St. Pierre and Josh Koscheck each invested plenty of face time in convincing viewers (and maybe themselves) that a good old-fashioned white hat-black hat grudge match was a-brewin'.
Will the fans buy this (literally)? We'll find out Dec. 11. For now, all we know is that the war of words lived up to its billing. Will the actual fight follow suit?
Quite frankly, I say no, it won't. Here are five reasons why.
1. Georges St. Pierre Has Already Beaten Josh Koscheck Once
It needs to be said up front and for the record that, before they even step in the cage at UFC 124, it's already GSP 1, Koscheck 0.
All the way back in 2007 -- when automobiles were started by hand crank and Brock Lesnar was still a pro football castoff -- St. Pierre defeated Josh Koscheck by unanimous decision. If you were alive back then, you might remember St. Pierre scoring takedown after takedown on Koscheck while preventing the All-American collegiate wrestler from doing same.
That takes some wind out of the old sails, if you ask me. Or do you think Koscheck has improved since then? Read on.
2. Georges St. Pierre Is STILL Better Than Josh Koscheck
Was their first fight really THAT long ago? Have their games evolved THAT much?
I know Koscheck has become more well-rounded and purportedly better with his hands, but I don't see that changes on one side or another have made this "a totally different fight" than the first one.
I'm going to need a little more from Koscheck than a knockout of Yoshiyuki Yoshida and a 70-year-old Frank Trigg to convince me he has made a major leap in the stand-up department.
Koscheck has said he thinks GSP has a weak chin. But Dan Hardy said the same thing. So did Thiago Alves. So did B.J. Penn. Et cetera.
The only common opponent these two have in recent memory is Alves. (I'm not counting Trigg, who Koscheck fought when Trigg was well past his prime.)
Alves defeated Koscheck by unanimous decision in 2008. St. Pierre defeated a "new and improved" Alves in 2009 by unanimous decision.
If anything, I would say St. Pierre is the one who has evolved more, meaning Koscheck will have a hard time moving the welterweight champion out of his comfort zone. And we all know what that means.
3. Get Ready For a Grapplefest
Full disclosure: I'm a Georges St. Pierre fan. That pretty much establishes me as a fan of MMA wrestling.
I would argue it's an exciting and integral part of the sport, as would a great number of hardcore fans, who love to wax on about how the ground game is a delicate ballet of combat, a nuanced chess match that only true aficionados can understand, and so on.
Fair enough. But let's be honest. When was the last time dominant side control got you on your feet, or prompted a roar of approval from the tavern or arena? The answer, if I may, is never. That's why there's no Takedown of the Night Bonus.
A lot of TUF's success lies in the role it plays as a UFC feeder system--for fighters and for fans. TUF Coach St. Pierre is probably the sport's most visible star right now. Combine these factors, and I'd be comfortable wagering that a greater-than-average number of casual fans will join the paying audience on Dec. 11. Rightfully, Dana White and the UFC are hyping the fight accordingly.
Do you think a 25-minute wrestling match is going to deliver on that hype?
As mentioned, Koscheck has said he wants to throw hands. GSP has said he wants to finish fights. You'll excuse me if I'll believe it when I see it.
With Greg Jackson ensconced in his corner, St. Pierre is not exactly poised for unnecessary aggression or theatrics...especially against a power puncher like Koscheck. As for Kos, did you see his last fight, with Paul Daley? A brain-numbing affair even by wrestling standards. Until Daley sucker-punched him, of course.
4. A Worn-Out Heel
Team GSP won 10 fights this season, compared with four for Team Kos. The finale pits two GSP fighters against each other.
I wrote about this before: GSP bested Koscheck at every conceivable turn. Better fighters, better coaching, better guest appearances (Mike Tyson? Freddie freakin' Roach? It's almost unfair), better cornering, better strategy, better practices, better food, better pillow linens, better everything.
Ever heard of bringing a knife to a gun fight? Well, Josh Koscheck brought a tooth brush.
In order to have a good rivalry, you need some balance. Otherwise, it's kind of hollow. That's why you don't hear much about Notre Dame-USC or Steelers-Browns these days.
And that's why TUF may have had a strange self-defeating effect. The trash talk contained therein surely helped hype the fight, but the show's actual results eroded any subtance that talk might have contained or achieved.
Don't get me wrong, Koscheck did his best to get under St. Pierre's skin, and occasionally it worked. For the most part, though, GSP refused to take the bait. GSP's stoicism and overwhelming success on the show may have unwittingly relegated Koscheck to something like an annoying younger brother, rather than an opponent to be reckoned with.
And to make matters worse, that stoicism, while admirable, did not exactly make for great TV. Which brings me to my final slide...
5. St. Pierre Is Just Too Darned Nice
It was good to see him keep a stiff upper lip during the show, and his ferocity in the Octagon is (or at least should be) unquestioned. Still, GSP is just a nice guy. And he doesn't try to hide that. Because it's not a bad thing. Quite the contrary.
Nevertheless, this makes it easy to envision GSP after this fight, having just pureed Koscheck into the mat for the unanimous decision victory, kneeling in front of his pulpy opponent, hugging and bowing to him and thanking him for being such a worthy target.
Then, a humbled St. Pierre tells Joe Rogan there were never really any bad feelings between him and Kos, that it was all just to hype the fight, and it's part of the business, and he's a proud champion who is happy to be a winner and is willing to fight anyone Dana White and Joe Silva choose to put in there with him.
A little later, St. Pierre will put on a nice suit, politely answer the media's questions, take a little break, and (with any luck) start looking ahead to the only fight left that actually could live up to the hype: a middleweight clash of the titans with Anderson Silva.