Why Koscheck lost and why George St- Pierre didn't knock Koscheck out
Josk Koscheck lost, in part, because of the American Kickboxing Academy. AKA is really good at taking wrestlers -- Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck, Cain Velasquez -- and turning them into really good MMA fighters by teaching them boxing and kickboxing. But that's it. So in the fight against GSP, Koscheck was the same fighter who fought Daley, who fought Alves, who fought Thiago. Everyone knew what Koscheck would do -- he would try to keep off the ground and try to set up the overhand right hook. That's exactly what he did, largey succeeding with the first and utterly failing with the second. AKA has taught everything it has to teach to Koscheck, Fitch and probably Velasquez at this point. But because they're a "family", Koscheck, Fitch, Velasquez and the rest will probably stay there, stagnating. Never trust a family you have to pay.
I'm not precisely attacking AKA. They've obviously got a lot of great fighters down there. They're really good at turning wrestlers into MMA fighters. But they all fight alike, really. Fitch and Koscheck are more or less indistinguishable and Velasquez is built on that same mold. Koscheck has definitely reached the point where he's not learning anything new. Everyone know what he was going to do against GSP and that's what he did. On the flip side of things, no one knew what GSP was going to do. It was a mystery. Unsurprisingly, since GSP was able to plan for exactly what Koscheck did and Koscheck wasn't able to plan for what GSP was going to do, GSP won.
Koscheck, and almost certainly Fitch and Velasquez, too, need to train somewhere else. It would probably be a fine idea to keep AKA as their main camp, but they're all getting to be rather predictable as fighters. Go down to New Mexico and train with Greg Jackson, go down to the Black House and train with Silva and Noguiera. (And that touches on the whole "team" thing, too. Koscheck and Fitch have already said they won't fight each other, even if the belt was on the line. Switching camp to camp would make sense insofar that it would allow them to diversify their experiences, but if they're going to take the attitude that they're not going to fight their teammates it would further limit their options. Which I find a bit insane. It is also an interesting way to see how martial arts styles develop but that's for another article.)
Which leaves us with why Georges St-Pierre didn't knock Koscheck out. While it's true that GSP has a fantastic defense, and that was certainly true in his fight against Koscheck, who barely touched GSP, GSP isn't precisely a defensive fighter. He's happy to bring the fight to the other guy. But it's been a while since he finished a fight. Because he has a level of activity that you never see with Lyoto Machida, and his defense is as good as Machida's, well, probably better, it's hard to call GSP's fights boring . . . except insofar that a fighter as skilled as GSP basically has no competition. You look at the guys he's fought, but was unable to finish, and you can tell that GSP was landing serious blows against Koscheck. (Indeed, and I'll mention it as an aside, part of the reason GSP might not have knocked out Koscheck is because he made a squishy spot. Y'know. In Koscheck's skull.)
But, he hasn't finished a fight in a while. Why can't he knock guys like Fitch, Koscheck and Alves out? Sure, some of it is definitely because these guys are really amazing fighters, but there's got to be more to it than that, right?
The short answer is knees. GSP has brutal knees and one of his top trainers is one of the best muay Thai guys in the world but GSP almost never goes for standing knee strikes. His stand-up game is almost entirely Kyukushin karate. He's got some kicks, he's got some directs, all very linear and from the outside. What he doesn't have are the tools capable of really knocking someone out in one blow. I suspect the easiest way to make GSP a knockout artist is to train him in knees. He's already great at controlling the clinch. Give him some knees, give him some elbows. GSP, listen to me, use that nasty muay Thai stuff.
Since GSP trains in Brazil, and I think this would definitely be going out his comfort zone, instead of training in Brazilian jiu jitsu, stop instead at Chute Boxe Academy. Chute Boxe has produced some of the greatest knock out artists in MMA -- Shogun Rua, Wanderlei Silva, Anderson Silva, and they do it with their knees. I know these guys have a level of violence you GSP isn't entirely comfortable with; if there's a brutal mean thug in MMA from Brazil, the odds are he's a Chute Boxe guy. But, for crying out loud, they can finish fights like no one else. And even if he doesn't go to Chute Boxe, he needs to go somewhere to get that training.
Or, at least, learn hooks and uppercuts. I think that knees would be better for GSP. He's already got the power in them and he's got a great clinch, fantastic balance and explosive power. But if not knees, though, then uppercuts and hooks. He also had a fair bit of precision and if he learned to drive uppercuts into guys jaws, he'd knock them out, not just down. For while it's true that GSP has no weaknesses, he has not yet acquired all strengths. I believe he's aware of this and he's been very disappointed in himself that he hasn't been able to finish his last several opponents, and one of the key things missing from his toolbox is one shot knockout power.
GSP is in a nearly unique position of having latitude to really experiment in the ring. He hasn't lost a round in 35 rounds. So, against Jake Shields, he could either throw caution to the wind and try to KO Shields in the first and second, confident that if he hadn't he could revert to his old style and beat him that way . . . or do the first three rounds his old style and use four and five to throw knees and inside uppercuts from the clinch. He's got a latitude with experimentation utterly lacking in lesser fighters. He should use it, I think.
(I suppose it's also possible that even the greatly skilled GSP is simply at the end of his formidable talent -- that this is basically the best GSP that we'll ever see. Y'know, merely the best in the world. But I think he can go further. I think with a little work he could make his offense at least as great as his defense.)
Knees, Georges, listen to me, knees.