This Saturday, after a season of TUF that saw Georges St. Pierre and Josh Koscheck grow to like each other even less than they already did, the two welterweight stars will square off in the main event of UFC 124. St. Pierre will be attempting to make his fifth-consecutive title defense; GSP has been involved in 10 title fights in his UFC career, but this is just the first for Koscheck.
As you’re probably aware, St. Pierre and Koscheck squared off once before, in the co-headlining match of UFC 74 back in August 2007. St. Pierre had just lost his belt to Matt Serra in a monumental upset. Koscheck was riding a five-fight win streak, and had out-pointed Diego Sanchez four months prior.
Since that night, George St. Pierre has been undefeated and untouchable in six contests, flawlessly sweeping out the 170-pound division. Koscheck has gone 6-2, taking out some tough opponents in impressive fashion, but getting smacked down by a couple of Brazilians. And now, St. Pierre and Koscheck are going at it again. Which means it’s time to re-watch their first fight and see if we can get any perspective on this thing. Let’s begin…
Koscheck comes out trying to end things early with his fists in round one. But nothing really lands, and when Koscheck tries a leg kick, GSP deftly scoops it up and puts Kos on his back, where he remains for the next three minutes. St. Pierre passes to half-guard, and starts throwing down punches intermittently. Koscheck returns a few elbows off his back. With about a minute and a half left in the round, Kos manages to stand up and score a takedown of his own. Koscheck isn’t able to do much on top, but he does keep a dominant position and fires down a hard punch at the very end of the round.
Round two is all GSP. The former champ shows off some of his striking before landing another takedown. St. Pierre tries to set up a kimura from half-guard, but can’t quite get it. He passes to side control. Kos tries to buck off the mat, but St. Pierre is on him like a glue-stick. GSP tries the kimura again while sitting on Koscheck’s head. It’s a humiliating position, and GSP is very close to sinking it, but Kos manages to keep his arm in its socket — which has to count for something, even if he wasn’t able to do anything offensively in the entire round.
Third and final round: Kos goes back to throwing heat, hungry for the knockout. St. Pierre responds to Koscheck’s slugging with a more measured, varied striking attack that seems to be a lot more effective. GSP starts lighting Koscheck up, and Kos grabs a leg. Kos tries for a takedown, Georges sprawls like a superhero, then gets to pounding on Kos with elbows. They brawl on the ground in the closing seconds before GSP falls into a leglock attempt just for the hell of it.
GSP takes the fight in a unanimous decision by a final score of 29-28, 29-28, and 30-27, meaning that two of the judges gave Koscheck the first round — which sounds kind of odd until you realize that one of those judges was Adalaide Byrd.
Both fighters will tell you that they’ve come a long way in the last three years. But while Josh Koscheck has continued to put effort into becoming a more "complete" fighter, Georges St. Pierre has gotten even better as a wrestler, and even more committed to taking opponents down and controlling them from the top. If he could keep Koscheck on his back in 2007, I have no doubt that he’ll be able to do it again this weekend.
In recent years, Koscheck has shown more knockout ability than St. Pierre. But as we see here, that ability comes from throwing heavy power-shots that are easy to see coming and don’t often come in combination. St. Pierre’s striking is a lot more technical. In their first fight, GSP was able to land a lot of shots by mixing up his attack, but more importantly, he was able to easily avoid most of Koscheck’s strikes.
I will say this for Josh Koscheck — he’s a tough S.O.B. who doesn’t give up a kimura easily and stays active on the bottom. In their first fight, Kos was always either trying to escape or punching back at GSP. He didn’t seem nearly as lost on his back as, say, Dan Hardy and Thiago Alves were against St. Pierre. That will serve Koscheck well in the rematch. But it’s not enough to win the fight, and neither is the sort-of-irrelevant idea that Koscheck hits harder. He’ll need a great gameplan, and lots of luck.