Monday, December 13, 2010

And STILL the UFC welterweight champion of the world!

Georges St-Pierre fucked up Josh Koscheck. GSP did not manage to do a dominating ground and pound and brutally punish Koscheck. GSP punished Koscheck on his feet for daring to set foot in Canada. Koscheck was able to top most of GSP's takedowns, until the fifth when GSP could toss him down at will, and proved slippery to handle on the ground. On the other hand, GSP easily defended against Koscheck's takedowns. Which meant that the fight was a stand-up battle. GSP brought the pain. Koscheck's face looked Rocky Balboa after Apollo Creed was done with him.

As I said before, Koscheck's punching consists of a good set-up left followed by an overhand right hook. I knew this and so did everyone else in the world, including GSP. So every time Koscheck came in, GSP hit with a jab like an iron bar. He through some crosses and hooks that landed, too, but the story was GSP's explosive right jab and his perfect defense. Koscheck barely touched GSP. Fight Metric's data is a tally of GSP's dominance. GSP landed 136 strikes and 110 of them were significant while Koscheck landed only 30 with 15 of them significant.

The other side of the story is that GSP couldn't finish Koscheck off. Koscheck has a hard head and the welterweight division in the UFC has some of the best fighters in the world. I would have liked to see Koscheck get knocked out -- something only managed once, so far, by the hard hitting Paulo Thiago, which was a little surprising since he managed to tough out the harder hitting Thaigo Alves. Without a doubt, Koscheck has a good chin and a lot of heart.

That said, St-Pierre punished Koscheck. His jab was like a gunshot to Koscheck's eye. By the end of the fight, the eye was swollen totally shut and he was flinching away from his corner guys trying to tend to it. After the fight, it was found GSP had broken Koscheck's orbital bone and there was an air pocket behind the eye. He was driven to Boston for surgery; he couldn't fly because the rapid pressure changes might further injure the eye. So . . . I guess I definitely got the punishment I wanted. GSP broke Koscheck's skull.

Still, he didn't "finish" Koscheck. But part of why GSP is such a great champion is because he has such great people to fight against. The welterweight division -- which includes most of the fighters who are of "average" height -- is the toughest in the world, I think. So GSP's lack of finishing against welterweights must be contextualized in that light; Anderson Silva and Jose Aldo just don't have the brutal competition that GSP faces at welterweight (both middleweight were Silva fights and featherweight where Aldo fights have only 1 "best pound-per-pound fighter each in the top ten; welterweight has three and those three are generally ranked higher than lightweight's three). Middleweight's #1 contender is Chael Sonnen -- a solid fighter but no one is going to confuse his 25-11-1 record with "amongst the best in the world" and from there the bottom drops out fast. Yushin Okami is #3 at middleweight . . . really? And featherweight drops off equally fast. I'm not saying that Anderson Silva isn't an amazing fighter. He is. I'm not saying Jose Aldo isn't an amazing fighter. He is. I'm just saying that they don't face the stacked opposition of a GSP, where the two and three guys in the weight class are also top ten pound-for-pound fighters. You look at the precision striking that GSP used against Koscheck, it was as good as anything Anderson Silva ever did, it's just GSP is fighting much better guys. Koscheck is one of those better guys.

After the fight, Koscheck took the trash talk down. He flatly said he had talked the trash to boost the hype, he thanked Montreal and said GSP was the "best pound-for-pound fighter in the world". I hope he likes the bigger paycheck the hype caused, because not once did GSP and Koscheck touch gloves respectfully and GSP blasted apart Koscheck's skull. I hope his paycheck keeps him warm in the hospital. I found myself distinctly unimpressed that after he got his ass kicked he was suddenly "respectful". Like his behavior in The Ultimate Fighter towards Brad Tate, it follows the classic bully pattern. Someone stands up to the bully and he backs down. It doesn't mean the bully isn't a bully. GSP was completely respectful, praising Koscheck and even asking the Montreal audience to give the guy a break. GSP comes off as a decent guy even after following up his crushing victories over Koscheck in The Ultimate Fighter with a literally skull breaking victory in the octagon.

I suspect this is it for Koscheck's title pretensions. He'll still be able to make money as a fighter, but the odds of him getting another title shot are pretty low. GSP dominated him. GSP barely broke a sweat in the fight and it's the second time GSP beat Koscheck easily. I don't know how this is going to effect Koscheck's rankings, he was beaten by the best in the world in a fight everyone figured he'd lose, anyway, but he's 33 and there are a bunch of guys who are going to get a shot at GSP before Koscheck could possibly hope to get a third rematch, a rematch for which there would be basically zero interest given their now well established relative skills: GSP wears the Viking hat, Koscheck is the bitch. Koscheck would be in line after Jake Shields, Jon Fitch, Thiago Alves, Martin Kampmann and whoever else might come up. Those four fights, alone, will take two and a half years to do, which means, realistically, Koscheck would be 36 by the time he got to fight GSP, again. (Koscheck's best hope is, realistically, that GSP moves up to welterweight, which would definitely throw him back into the contender mix.) Assuming the UFC would even care to put Koscheck up against GSP, again, after GSP brutally dominated Kosheck in their last two fights and assuming that Koscheck is even a contender, then. I'm sure that Koscheck will want to fight, again, but he's going to be sidelined for a long time because of this. If the UFC follows its normal procedure, they'll put him on a mandatory 180 day suspension and then he'll have to be cleared with a CAT scan. Brock Lesnar broke Heath Herring's orbital bone and Herring still hasn't returned to fighting after 2 years. It's possible GSP has retired Koscheck, so those extra pay-per-view buys better be able to keep him warm at night because his next paycheck might be a long way away.

Elsewise in UFC 124, Stephan Struve handily defeated Sean McCorkle about four minutes into the first round. After a near submission by McCorkle via kimura (a kind of figure four armbar) on the ground, Struve was able to reverse into a full mount and ground and pound McCorkle. It'll probably be the last we see of McCorkle in the UFC. McCorkle's submission victory over an past-his-prime and never-really-that-good Mark Hunt will now be contextualized as "pure luck" or "irrelevant". The mystery wasn't that McCorkle beat Hunt, but that Hunt was allowed in the UFC. Apparently, Dana White liked Struve's performance and is ready to move the 22 year old Dutchman up to contender status. Struve was also extremely gracious in victory. I like Struve. I don't know if he's championship material, yet, but he's twenty-two years old. He's got good heart and good skills and the time to turn them into great skills. And heaven knows the UFC heavyweight division needs new guys.

In his fight against the skilled John Howard, Thiago Alves proved he's still a top guy. He utterly dominated the fight and broke his two fight losing streak. Granted, that "losing streak" was the both the champ, Georges St-Pierre, and the number one contender, Jon Fitch, so losing to two best guys in your division isn't precisely humiliating . . . but in the Fitch fight, Alves didn't make weight and didn't perform well, probably because he messed himself trying to make weight. But Alves apparently has a new diet and made weight easily and he looked his old self with crisp punches, brutal leg kicks and rock solid takedown defense. I like Alves and I'm glad he was able to bounce back from his losses to GSP and Fitch, and especially the shadow that was cast over him because of his fight with Fitch. I'd like to see a Alves vs. Fitch rematch at some point, see what Alves can do when he's not lethargic from a bad cut.

Which pretty much clears up all my strong feelings about UFC 124. It was a good card. I hope to see more Jim Miller (who won with a nasty kneebar against a skilled BJJ fighter and whom Dana White says is now "on his radar") and Mark Bocek (who had a wicked submission via a triangle that he started from the mount and then spun it over to cinch up the choke; I'm really happy to see more Brazilian jiu jitsu fighters being aggressive and not relying on people fighting them in the closed guard).

But . . . now to obsess about the Anderson Silva/Vitor Belfort fight. Brazilian on Brazilian action, oh, yeah, bab-ee. As far as it goes, I find myself increasingly on Belfort's side. Silva's last few fights have been pretty underwhelming. I know he had a hurt rib when he fought Chael Sonnen and lucked out to get the win, and you can attribute his poor showing to that injury, but before that his performance against Demain Maia, basically refusing to engage in the last two rounds because he knew he'd won the first three, makes me doubt his will to win. I am suspecting Vitor Belfort might sort that out -- will we see the Silva who knocked out Forrest Griffin easily or the Silva who ran from Demian Maia? In terms of personality, Silva is also something of a cipher. He is respectful, but he mostly shuns the spotlight, I feel. Belfort, I believe, is still hungry for the title and heaven knows he has brutal knockout skills, winning four of his last five fights by knockout. He has wins over tough guys like Rich Franklin, Wanderlei Silva and Randy Couture. We'll see.

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