Two of the best 170-pound fighters in the world meet Saturday when Georges St. Pierre looks to defend his UFC welterweight championship for the fifth time when he meets top contender Josh Koscheck at UFC 124 in Montreal. Here is MMA For Real's preview of the fight:
Georges St. Pierre:
Record: 20-2-0 overall, 14-2 UFC
Key losses: Matt Hughes (UFC 50), Matt Serra (UFC 69)
How he got here: One of the greatest athletes to ever grace the Octagon, Georges "Rush" St. Pierre looks to continue his dominant run here. Known around the world as "GSP," St. Pierre's reinvented himself starting with his UFC 74 fight with Josh Koscheck. He changed his life and how he trained and it obviously has been for the better. In that fight, after Koscheck took the first round on two of the three judge's scorecards, St. Pierre won the last two rounds and has not lost a round since — a span of six fights and 25 rounds. Those 25 straight rounds won are a UFC record. As a streak such as 25 straight rounds won would indicate, GSP hardly has been dominant during that span. He captured the UFC interim welterweight title in his next fight, beating Matt Hughes. Then he avenged his worst career loss by smoking Matt Serra at UFC 83. From there, he was off and running, dismantling Jon Fitch at UFC 87, tuning up B.J. Penn at UFC 94, taking apart vaunted striker Thiago Alves at UFC 100 and dominating Dan Hardy at UFC 111.
How he gets it done: St. Pierre is the very definition of a well-rounded mixed martial artist. An incredibly-quick learner, GSP has not only solid striking, but terrific MMA wrestling and solid submissions to boot. Of his 20 wins, eight have come by TKO, seven by decision and five by submission. Of his two losses, one has come by TKO and one by submission. St. Pierre has never lost a decision.
X-Factor: It appears that St. Pierre, as some would say around these parts, "is mad." Koscheck has undoubtedly got under his skin. Will that affect St. Pierre's performance? It's difficult to say, but I tend to believe, if anything, it has only motivated the champion. If you're Josh Koscheck, do you really want a rather perturbed GSP coming at you?
Record: 15-4-0 overall, 13-4 UFC
Key losses: Drew Fickett (Ultimate Fight Night 2), Georges St. Pierre (UFC 74), Thiago Alves (UFC 90), Paulo Thiago (UFC 95)
How he got here: An outstanding wrestler and NCAA Division I champion, Josh Koscheck has evolved into a true mixed martial artist since his time on "The Ultimate Fighter." When he steps into the Octagon on Saturday, he'll be doing so for the 18th time. It truly has been baptism by fire for Koscheck. The story of Koscheck's career has been losses at inopportune times, no more so than when he was knocked out by Paulo Thiago at UFC 95. His loss to Thiago Alves at UFC 90 gets some slack cut on it because he came in on short notice was showed great toughness in taking a pounding. Despite 13 wins in the UFC, Koscheck has yet to capture the "big win." As of now, he's had no career-defining win. Beating St. Pierre would obviously be such a win.
How he gets it done: Koscheck is an interesting case. He'll go from one fight showing great finishing potential (be it either in the stand-up or on the ground) to the next fight where he reverts almost completely back to his wrestling roots (recently, his fights with Paul Daley and Chris Lytle). Of his 15 wins, six have come by decision, five by KO or TKO and four by decision, a nice spread. Of his four losses, two have been by decision and one each by submission and TKO.
X-Factor: Can Koscheck back up all the smack he's been talking? How's he going to respond to 23,000 rabid Canadians calling for his head? There's always pressure fighting, but then there's the pressure of being in your first title fight, thus your first five-round fight and it's the biggest fight of your life in front of a building where the only people supporting you are your corner and whoever you gave tickets to. That's pretty intense.
Bottom line: Nearly everybody is counting Koscheck out in this one, but I'm not nearly as bearish on him as others. I do think he's a different fighter than he was before, but is it going to make a difference if St. Pierre is just on a completely different level than he is? We are witnessing something special here with St. Pierre. He is one of the great combat sports athletes of this generation. Koscheck has a chance, but that falls in landing that one punch on St. Pierre. St. Pierre will be better off his back and better on top and if Penn, Alves and Hardy couldn't land with any regularity on St. Pierre, what does Koscheck expect? With that said, though, those three aren't near the caliber of wrestler that Koscheck is. The most critical element of this fight for Koscheck is to avoid being taken down. His chances go up if he does that, but if he can't stop the takedown, that's not good. This will be a good one. There's no doubt both men are motivated, but GSP is the superior mixed martial artist and it will show in the cage. St. Pierre wears him down and stops him in the fourth round.
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