UFC 124: St. Pierre vs. Koscheck II goes down tonight at the Bell Centre in Montreal, and CagePotato will be liveblogging the pay-per-view broadcast beginning at 10 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. PT. To help get you in the proper spirit, Ben Goldstein and Doug "ReX13" Richardson have returned to squabble over all the important storylines. Does Josh Koscheck have any chance at an upset? Are UFC fighters becoming boring overall? Which of UFC 124′s lightweights are dead weight? Who gives worse gambling advice, Ben or Doug? Do us a favor and slog through this painfully long column, then let us know your own thoughts in the comments section.
BG: Well, he’ll have to avoid getting finished, first of all–
BG: –and he’ll have to win at least one of the five rounds. That doesn’t seem like a lot to ask–
BG: –but nobody’s been able to take a round from GSP since — wait for it — Josh Koscheck kind-of won the opening frame of their first meeting at UFC 74, over three years ago. Seriously. If Kos can avoid a 50-45 shutout on all three judges’ cards or an ugly TKO loss, he will have done better than Matt Hughes, Matt Serra (in their rematch), Jon Fitch, BJ Penn, Thiago Alves, and Dan Hardy. That would be a hell of an accomplishment.
So how can he pull it off? Koscheck only holds one real advantage over the champ: Punching power, which he’s used to flatten guys like Yoshiyuki Yoshida and Frank Trigg. Kos just needs to stuff St. Pierre’s takedown once in a while, and then put his fist on Georges’s chin, as he so confidently promised on TUF. A hard shot, well-placed, will wobble GSP — maybe enough to allow Josh to score a takedown of his own. Obviously, I don’t see that happening consistently in the fight, but if it even happens once, I will lose my shit.
RX: You may not like Kos—I know I don’t—but you have to give him props as a fighter. He’s developed and rounded out his game nicely, and here he is getting his second crack at one of the top three (depending on who you ask) fighters in the galactic empire. On top of that, he’s a shoo-in for the MMA Heel Hall of Fame. Koscheck is good for the growth of the sport because he puts asses in the seats, and I expect him to stay with Zuffa until he hits 35 and is forced to retire by someone younger, hungrier, and better. Hopefully, he’ll cry real tears, thank all the booing fans, and move on to start a Youtube channel of ramblings and conspiracy theories, which will become progressively more bizarre and amusing as the years pass. When he eventually dies at a ripe old age in the fullness of time, we’ll all talk about what a great asshole Josh Koscheck was, and how they just don’t make bad guys like that anymore.
BG: You didn’t answer the question at all.
RX: I don’t need to take this abuse from a grown man who dresses his mini dog in a Halloween costume.
Ok, you blew your holiday gift budget on a Hughes-Machida parlay last month, and your wife is saying she’ll smother you in your sleep if she receives another Snuggie this year. Turn fifty bucks into a decent gift, or someone will be celebrating New Year’s under a bridge.
RX: Well, kids, do you want to be a fucking gambler? You can triple your money on a straight bet for Josh “Fraggle Rock” Koscheck, and some people out there are calling him for an upset. Hey, put your money where your mouth is, right? Personally though, I don’t think Kos has the technique to get a good power punch in and put GSP down — which is the only way I can see Koscheck coming out as the champ.
On the other hand, there’s really not an underdog I like to win on the card. Mac Danzig and John Howard are both sitting at +220, which can pay you out well enough, but do you think they’ll prevail? I do not. Danzig needs to put in a FotN performance if he doesn’t want to lose his job, but I think Stevenson will outpoint him. Thiago Alves is on the brink of being pushed to middleweight, and I think he’ll show up in perfect shape and starch Howard.
With no lack of balls (or willingness to learn from the past), I’m just going to try to parlay everybody. St Pierre-Struve-Oliveira-Stevenson-Alves will bring me just over $250 on a hypothetical $50 bet, and I could up my return substantially if I’m willing to swap in McCorkle or Jim Miller. Pick carefully, kids, and if 8 pound, six ounce newborn infant Jesus is willing, baby is getting a used pair of Manolo Blahniks. (Or a microwave; depends on the sales.)
BG: Bro, you have just cursed one of the five guys in that parlay. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years of giving terrible gambling advice, it’s that any parlay over three fighters is doomed, especially when you really need the money. In fact, stay away from underdogs altogether if the stakes include homelessness.
Two betting favorites are being noticeably undervalued here, in my opinion. While I respect Sean McCorkle’s ability to eHype himself from obscurity to UFC co-headliner in just two fights, Stefan Struve (-160) has so much more high-level experience than Big Sexy, despite being 12 years younger. Meanwhile, Mark Bocek (-135) is welcoming the knockout-prone Dustin Hazelett back to the lightweight division, and has the grappling skills to avoid being twisted up into one of Hazelett’s weird submissions. Plus, as Chad mentioned on our last podcast, Jim Miller is a great value against Charles Oliveira at +110, even if we all want to believe that Oliveira is the next big thing. $20 apiece on favorites Struve and Bocek and $10 on slight-’dog Miller could leave you with an extra $38.31 to play around with this holiday season — or $241.01 if you’re dumb enough to parlay them all together. I know it’s not much, but it’ll be enough to upgrade your wife from a Snuggie to a Jamaican Slap Chop.
Last weekend, the UFC gave us a card full of decision fights while Strikeforce gave us a card full of shockingly brutal knockouts. Is this a sign that fighters play it too safe in the UFC, or is it just a case of matchmaking differences?
BG: "Henderson vs. Sobral" was clearly more entertaining than the TUF 12 Finale, but I think it’s ridiculous how much grief MMA forum vultures are giving the UFC for losing one battle. Sometimes the stars just align in your favor, and you end up with Matt Lindland and Scott Smith both getting knocked out so hard that fans call for their retirement. That’s a dream scenario for any promoter.
The UFC does its best to put together high-caliber fights between evenly matched competitors, and they tend not to book squash matches. As a result, you sometimes get cards that are dominated by decisions. If you really want to see some crazy stoppages, go to a local amateur MMA event, where the fighters don’t remember to keep their hands up and don’t know how to defend a triangle choke. Things are different at the elite level, and it all comes down to matchmaking.
Take this weekend’s UFC 124 card, which may look a little underwhelming on paper. It lacks a strong co-headliner. Two of the main card fights (Stevenson/Danzig, Alves/Howard) feature guys who are both coming off of losses. There’s almost nothing on the prelims worth discussing. But the event is loaded with guys who constantly pursue the finish. Charles Oliveira is the new lightweight submission king of the UFC. Alves/Howard will be a slugfest that could end by knockout at any moment, from either side. Stefan Struve and Sean McCorkle have a combined total of two decisions between them, in 34 combined fights. GSP is not going to be content to just lay on top of Josh Koscheck this time (I hope). Yeah, Stevenson vs. Danzig might be boring, but overall, I think this card will disprove the "UFC fighters play it safe" storyline — at least until Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard bring us right back down to Earth.
RX: It’s both, really. Strikeforce engineered that card to be coma-riffic, and they succeeded beyond their own expectations of potential brain damage. Well played, Strikeforce people.
Conversely, Dana White and the UFC are driven to only showcase the tippy-top of the MMA world. Lose at that level, the thinking went, and you don’t belong in the promotion. With the rise of the cautious wrestler, winning fights with takedowns and positional dominance, and a resume full of decision wins leading to title fights, more and more fighters began to gameplan for the safest possible win. It’s hard to fault a fighter for safeguarding his paycheck. So, some fights got boring, and everyone blamed wrestling, which is like blaming Brett Favre’s penis for the Vikings not making the playoffs. That dick is just doing what dicks do, and no one should be surprised (although it would be nice to see dicks encouraged to go ahead and finish, already). The good news is that Dana appears to have caught on, signaled by the release of Gerald Harris last month.
The other good news is that this card isn’t about title shots; it’s about good matchups. I’m hoping for some entertaining scraps, followed by no one being released for a loss against a tough opponent.
BG: How likely is that?
RX: Not effing likely. Consider…
Fact: Zuffa has more employees at 155 than they can use. Fact: UFC 124 features eight fighters at 155. How many lightweights from UFC 124 will still be with the company next year?
RX: I’m just saying, that’s more lightweights than my first kegger. My opinion: half these guys will be competing elsewhere next winter. Anyone who doesn’t perform well will almost certainly be dropped harder than a college freshman that still plays Magic: The Gathering, and it’s not like we’re getting the cream of the lightweight crop anyway. In: Stevenson, Oliveira, Miller, and Hazelett. Out: Danzig, Bocek, Makdessi, and Audinwood. (Note: “Awesomely Awesome” Audinwood wins this fight, then loses his next two and gets cut sometime next summer or fall.) Sorry fellas, but someone has to lose out in this UFC-WEC merger, and it sure as hell ain’t gonna be internet assholes making predictions.
BG: Oh, absolutely — guys like us always come out on top. But you’re forgetting a couple of very important things. First off, Mark Bocek is Canadian, which means he’ll never really be cut, at least not permanently. Even if he loses to Hazelett (which would be two in a row for him), all he has to do is win a couple more in W-1, and the UFC will stick him on the prelims of their next Canadian event. You’re also glossing over the fact that Hazelett is fleeing from welterweight after getting bombed out of the division by Paul Daley and Rick Story. Assuming he’ll flourish at 155 again might be a stretch; this could very well be his go-home fight. And personally, I think it’s way too early to make any kind of prediction on John Makdessi, considering he hasn’t even made his UFC debut yet — though if he wasn’t Canadian, it’s pretty safe to say he wouldn’t be on this card in the first place.
Make one absurdly specific prediction for Saturday night.
RX: Dan Miller will show off a spiffy new submission called the Shinobi Choke, which will have "El Dirte" Doerksen in trouble at the end of Round 1. Saved by the bell, Doerksen goes on to score a split-decision victory. Also, Oliveira will be so excited after his win over
Dan Cole Arthur JIM Miller that he will forget all fifteen words of English he knows.
BG: Sean McCorkle will become the first fighter in UFC history to update his Twitter feed during a fight, which he’ll do between rounds 1 and 2. The tweet will be 38 characters long and mock the lack of strength in Struve’s punches. After the fight, McCorkle will text Megan Olivi. She will not respond.