Ultimate Fighting Championship closes out 2010 with a major event featuring a stacked card top to bottom. The show is highlighted by one of the most popular fighters in the company, fighting in his hometown, against one of the most hated fighters in the company. Beyond that though there is a great heavyweight fight between two of the biggest men in the company who have taken to the internet to trash talk, a welterweight clash between two powerful strikers, a lightweight battle between Ultimate Fighter winners, and a lightweight showdown that has fight of the night written all over it. It’s pretty much the best thing to come out of Canada since Elisha Cuthbert.
UFC Welterweight Title Fight: Josh Koscheck vs. Georges St. Pierre
Over three years ago Georges St. Pierre and Josh Koscheck faced in the co-main event of UFC 74. It was the re-debut of St. Pierre wearing trunks so tight that he instantly became the ladies favorite fighter and it was also the last time he lost a round inside the Octagon. St. Pierre went on to dominate top welterweights such as Matt Hughes, Jon Fitch, Thiago Alves, and others while Koscheck rattled off wins over Chris Lytle, Anthony Johnson, Paul Daley, and others. Now they meet again under much different circumstances. St. Pierre has been labeled invincible, Koscheck is no longer just a wrestler, the UFC Welterweight Title is on the line, and they’re in St. Pierre’s hometown of Montreal, Canada. Only one can run the town on Saturday night.
Throw out the first fight for Koscheck, it means almost nothing. It was over three years ago and no sport changes more on a year-to-year basis than MMA. All the first fight proved was that on August 25, 2007, St. Pierre was the better fighter. Koscheck has come a long way since that fight, especially in his stand up. His problem striking is his predictability. He always paws with the jab and then wings his right hand. It’s effective against lesser strikers but don’t bet on it catching St. Pierre if he throws it like he typically does. Koscheck really needs to take a page out of Matt Serra’s striking playbook and that’s go to the body of St. Pierre. If he throws the right hook to the body, he can set up the right hand over the top and also disguise some of his takedowns. Speaking of which, he needs to disguise his takedowns. Koscheck doesn’t really set up his takedowns with strikes because he’s such an explosive wrestler that he shoots, dares his opponents to stop it, and most of the time they can’t. That won’t work against St. Pierre. He needs to throw some feints and get St. Pierre thinking takedown or right hand and then surprise him by doing the opposite. If he remains his typical, predictable self, he has the proverbial punchers chance but that’s about it. Koscheck is obviously a great wrestler and if he can get St. Pierre to the ground, he can win this fight by controlling him. He’s fairly active on top, especially with elbows, and St. Pierre prefers to push away and get up rather than try to work any type of submission game on bottom so if he gets St. Pierre down, he has to keep him there. I think that that Koscheck wants to turn this fight into a brawl. I’m sure he’ll try some takedowns, especially if he feels that rounds are close, but he wants to bait St. Pierre into throwing wild strikes because he trusts his power and doesn’t think St. Pierre has a good chin. If that is truly how he thinks, he might be able to catch St. Pierre but it’s not exactly the best strategy to have. He’s going to have KO St. Pierre or clearly out wrestle him because he’s not going to win a point striking match or a close grappling battle.
St. Pierre is the most well-rounded fighter in all of MMA. On top of his undeniable skill, he’s also a very smart fighter. He doesn’t get into any wild brawls and doesn’t take any unnecessary risks. On the feet he’s a better technical and diverse striker than Koscheck. He throws tight straight punches, has a good counter right, and is power is rather underrated. He has his bread and butter strikes like his lead leg high kick, his superman jab-leg kick combination, and his spinning back kick that never connects but always looks nice. The thing St. Pierre does best is mixing his striking with his takedowns. He either baits opponents into striking, ducks under, and gets a takedown or he throws a combination and then shoots off of his strikes. He actually makes a mistake with his takedowns in that he leaves his neck exposed but he’s so quick and throws his opponents so off guard that they don’t have time to grab a guillotine. I’m willing to bet that there is unreleased footage of Cody McKenzie catching St. Pierre in a guillotine while they were training on TUF 12. On the ground, Koscheck is no threat off his back but one thing he’ll need to do is quickly push away every time St. Pierre postures to his feet to deliver ground and pound. One noticeable flaw in St. Pierre’s skill set is his back control. For some reason, when he gets back control, he seems to slip off going for a sloppy submission. I’m not saying Koscheck should give up his back every time he’s on the ground in hopes that he can shake St. Pierre off, but maybe he’s ballsy enough to try his luck. Since UFC 69, almost every fighter St. Pierre has faced has uttered the words, “he’s mentally weak and has no chin.” All of those fighters are wrong. A mentally weak fighter would have caved under the pressure of fighting in his hometown against someone who had already beat him and a fighter with no chin would have been dropped more than once in 22 fights where the only time he was dropped was by a punch more to the temple than to the chin. There is one intangible trait about St, Pierre though that no mentions and it’s that he has a one track mind. Sometimes he’s so focused that it could be to his detriment. Against Dan Hardy, he wanted to finish by submission so he barely hit Hardy on the ground despite over 20 minutes of control. In his third fight against Hughes, he wanted to finish by armbar so he put Hughes on his back despite dominating him striking in their second meeting. In rematches against Serra and BJ Penn, he just wanted to beat the hell out of them so he put them on the ground despite them being jiu-jitsu black belts. When St. Pierre sets his mind to something, he does it and it’s pretty clear that his mindset for this fight is to destroy Koscheck. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but given his one-track mind, it’s fair to question whether or not he can adapt if something goes wrong or if that mindset can work against him. There is no position in which St. Pierre can’t win this fight. He can knockout Koscheck on the feet or on the ground, he can submit him, or he can out-strike or out-wrestle him to a decision.
Even if you think St. Pierre to going to dominate Koscheck in this fight, I dare you not to be excited for this fight simply for the atmosphere. St. Pierre is 100 times more popular than he was at UFC 83 and Koscheck is 100 times more hated than Serra. Plus we’re in the middle of hockey season and the Montreal Canadiens are in first place in their division, so you know Montreal fans are pumped. I don’t expect St. Pierre to dominate but I do expect him to win. He’s the best fighter in the world for a reason and he hasn’t looked vulnerable in forever. Until he does, it’s just too hard to go against him. I think he keeps Koscheck guessing on the feet, outwrestles him, avoids the big right hands, and picks up a comfortable decision.
Prediction: Georges St. Pierre to defeat Josh Kocheck by Decision
Heavyweight Fight: Sean McCorkle vs. Stefan Struve
If you’re a member of the famed MMA Underground then you know all about Sean McCorkle. He’s a trash talker extraordinaire who finally made his UFC debut at UFC 119 where he quickly submitted Mark Hunt. Stefan Struve has already had six UFC fights at the age of 22 and is the king of the “first round ass kicking comeback.” In a ballsy move, Struve ventured onto the UG and called out McCorkle, making for one of the most epic threads in MMA forum history.
McCorkle is a bit of a mystery. He dominated on the local scene and finished all but one of his opponents, which is what good fighters should do, and he quickly dispatched of Hunt but he’s rather untested. One thing I do know about him is that he’s training with some very good fighters. Guys like Pat Barry, Matt Mitrione, Tom Erickson, and even Randy Couture have helped McCorkle prepare for this fight. He has power in his hands, he’s a solid wrestler, and most importantly he’s a huge guy. Expect McCorkle to use that size in this fight. McCorkle will likely go for a takedown and then look to ground and pound Struve, while also trying to avoid the upkicks and triangles of his opponent. In a lot of his fights, Struve seems very content to just lay on his back while his opponents posture up, usually to their feet, and let them punch him in the face. If he tries that with McCorkle, he’ll be laying on his back longer than he wants to. Struve is also a very slow starter so expect McCorkle to come out fast. Although he has a pretty durable chin, Struve is relatively easy to hit and hasn’t met a right hand that he didn’t like to take right on the chin. The best McCorkle can hope for is a quick KO and the worst the fans can hope for is a McCorkle holding down Struve for 15 minutes.
Struve has quickly become a UFC fan favorite thanks to his ability to only have exciting fights and pull out some crazy comebacks. He’s a good striker although he doesn’t use his reach advantage very well, which is a huge concern. His long limbs make him a submission threat and it doesn’t hurt that he’s rather slick off his back. He has a tendency to get into brawls when he doesn’t need to but he has the power and chin to get away with it in most cases. I doubt McCorkle would be one of those cases given McCorkle’s power and the fact that he’s a guy that looks like he can take a solid punch. Struve needs to attack the body and legs of McCorkle. Given his size, it’s not unreasonable to believe that McCorkle has a questionable gas tank. Struve needs to test the cardio of McCorkle, wear him out, and do his best to finish him in the later rounds or at least win the last two rounds to win the decision.
This is a tough fight to call and it really comes down to whether or not you think that McCorkle is the real deal or at least a real enough deal that he can be a staple in the heavyweight division. Struve just makes too many defensive mistakes for me not to think that McCorkle will catch him with his power.
Prediction: Sean McCorkle to defeat Stefan Struve by TKO in Round 1
Welterweight Fight: John Howard vs. Thiago Alves
Former top contender Thiago Alves is back in action and coming off two straight losses, he’s in desperate need of a win and missing weight in two of his last four fights, he’s in desperate need of some terrible food. He’s taking on the powerful John Howard, who is coming off his first UFC loss in five fights.
Howard has a big opportunity in this fight. He’s coming off a loss yet he gets to fight a guy who just challenged for the UFC Welterweight Title two fights ago. He’s a solid fighter with one major thing going for him, and that’s his power. He’s not the most technical fighter in the world and he’s a bit unpredictable on the feet but he throws heavy hooks and if he connects, he can turn out the lights of anyone. He’s a solid wrestler and if he’s smart, he’ll use his wrestling a bit in this fight. Given Alves’ love for kicks, Howard would be best served to put Alves on his back when he throws a kick. At the very least he needs to make Alves pay for throwing a kick with a counter hook. Howard is a scrapper and he’ll need to make this fight a scrap. He can’t get into a technical striking contest with Alves because chances are that he’ll lose. He needs to turn this fight into a brawl and trust that his power is greater than Alves’. If Howard can’t score a KO on the feet or the ground, he could win a decision by putting Alves on his back and grinding him out.
Alves might be going through a rough patch but he’s still one of the best strikers in all of MMA. He’s very technical, throws the best leg kicks in MMA today, has natural power, and moves very well. One combination he loves to throw is an inside leg kick followed by a quick jab. It helps him find his range and then sets up the rest of his striking. Alves is great at baiting and then countering. He seems to like his back against the cage, letting his opponents come in after him, slipping their shots, and then throwing a mean counter right hand. Alves has good takedown defense and even when he does end up on his back, he immediately looks for an underhook to use to explode to his feet. Obviously the biggest concern with Alves is his weight cutting. He’s on the Dolce Diet and he’s reportedly doing just fine in his weight cut for this camp but he was reportedly just fine in his last camp and he still came in overweight. His cardio could be affected if he comes in a little drawn out from the new diet. Alves needs to keep this fight technical. Throw good straight punches to counter the hooks of Howard and chop at him with leg kicks. If he does that, he could KO Howard or win a comfortable decision.
This fight could be an explosive war if both fighters are willing to lay it all one the line or a bit dull if both fighters show each other too much respect. Either way, I like Alves to take this fight. Straight punches and leg kicks are a looping hooks kryptonite and as long as he can stay off his back for the majority of the fight, he should be able to pick up the victory.
Prediction: Thiago Alves to defeat John Howard by TKO in Round 2
Lightweight Fight: Mac Danzig vs. Joe Stevenson
Former Ultimate Fighter winners clash when season 2 winner Joe Stevenson faces season 6 winner Mac Danzig but unlike the previous three times (Rashad Evans vs. Michael Bisping, Forrest Griffin vs. Evans, and Diego Sanchez vs. Stevenson), this fight is not a main event and the loser might be looking for a new job.
Danzig is by far the most disappointing Ultimate Fighter winner in the shows history. He’s 2-4 since beating Tommy Speer to win the tournament and he’s 3-6 in his last nine fights. He’s faced good competition in most of those fights but he hasn’t really been competitive in them. He’s a decent boxer but seems to lack power and he has a solid ground game but doesn’t have very good takedown defense and gets controlled far too much on the ground. It’s possible that he could out-strike Stevenson, who is a bit overrated in the striking department, but he’ll need to mix things up and counter well. If Danzig can put Stevenson on his back then it’s possible that he’ll be able to control him but Stevenson has good takedown defense and every time Danzig shoots, Stevenson will be looking for a guillotine choke. I’m not sure Danzig can finish Stevenson but maybe he’ll be active enough in all positions to win a decision.
It might not be fair to call Stevenson the gatekeeper of the lightweight division but he’s dangerously close to that position. Everyone he’s defeated probably will never fight for the lightweight title (Nate Diaz could be an exception) and everyone he’s lost to has fought of the title or could very well could be fighting for the title this time next year. What I’m trying to say is that Stevenson only loses to top competition. He’s a good striker but he’s rather predictable and always leads with a left hook. He’s been using his wrestling a lot more now that he’s training at Greg Jackson’s MMA and I expect him to do just that in this fight. He’s going to put Danzig on his back and rough him up with elbows, just like he did against Spencer Fisher. He has very good top control and if you leave your neck exposed, he’s going to look for the guillotine choke. Stevenson could win this fight in a variety of ways. He could put Danzig on his back and pound him out, he could submit Danzig, or he could just grind his way to a decision.
This is Stevenson’s fight to lose. Not to knock Danzig but he just hasn’t performed in the UFC and I have no reason to believe that now he’s going to all of a sudden put it together against a good fighter like Stevenson. Danzig will try his best to make it a fight and if Stevenson takes him lightly, he could shock a lot of people but as long as Stevenson is focused and prepared, he should win. Some how, some way, Stevenson locks on a guillotine and finishes Danzig with it in this fight.
Prediction: Joe Stevenson to defeat Mac Danzig by Submission in Round 1
Lightweight Fight: Charles Oliveira vs. Jim Miller
Top lightweight prospect Charles Oliveira is back in action looking to remain unbeaten against his toughest challenge to date, Jim Miller.
After his victory over Efrain Escudero, I wrote that Oliveira would be a future UFC Lightweight Champion. While I still believe this, he’s facing a very tough opponent this weekend and that could put his meteoric rise on hold. Oliveira’s striking is highlight reel-esque. He’ll throw flying knees, he’ll dance around a bit, and he’s rather unpredictable on the feet. Everything he does is crisp though. He throws good straight punches and strong leg kicks. He may actually be too unpredictable for his own good. Even when he’s winning on the feet, he’s still looking for takedowns and he’s willing to pull guard, just to throw opponents off. On the ground he’s very active whether he’s on his back or on top. Miller is very tough to finish but Oilviera is skilled enough in all positions to finish him. He has power on his feet, he’s slick on the ground, or he could win a decision by just being the better fighter and more active.
Miller has been very under the radar in his UFC career. He’s 7-1 in the UFC, 18-2 overall, his only losses have been to Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard, and he’s never been finished. He doesn’t have that signature win though, which is what he’s trying to earn this Saturday. He’s a good technical boxer who uses a stiff jab and he’s a very good wrestler. Oliveira’s takedown defense will be tested in this fight but so will Miller’s grappling. Oliveira is great in scrambles and Miller has been caught in bad positions before against good grapplers, most notably in his fight against Mark Bocek. Miller will probably look to keep things standing, unless he’s getting picked apart, in which case he’ll be shooting for takedowns. Given his wrestling background and Oliveira’s love for leg kicks, Miller should try to put Olvieira on his back every time he throws a leg kick. Miller is skilled enough in all positions to finish Oliveira although I’d be shocked if he was able to submit him. Chances are that if Miller is going to win this fight, it’s going to be by ground and pound stoppage or a grinding decision.
This fight is a complete toss up in my mind and I was shocked to find out that Oliveira was a slight favorite. I won’t be shocked if Oliveira wins because he has a tremendous amount of talent but he’s never faced a guy like Miller, who is a work horse and a grinder and won’t get caught up with any of Oliveira’s flashiness. This should be an excellent back and fourth fight but in the end, Miller’s wrestling wins out.
Prediction: Jim Miller to defeat Charles Oliveira by Decision
*Dustin Hazelett to defeat Mark Bocek by Submission in Round 2
*Dan Miller to defeat Joe Doerksen by Submission in Round 1
*Rafael Natal to defeat Jesse Bongfeldt by TKO in Round 2
*Matt Riddle to defeat Sean Pierson by TKO in Round 1
*Ricardo Almeida to defeat TJ Grant by Decision
*John Makdessi to defeat Pat Audinwood by TKO in Round 2