When Josh Koscheck steps into the Octagon to rematch Georges St. Pierre this Saturday in Montreal, he'll be meeting a GSP far removed from the man that beat him four years ago. That version of St. Pierre wasn't a young legend, a pound-for-pound king, or a champion; he was a busted hype-train who had tapped to strikes by the unheralded Matt Serra. The man Koscheck will face at UFC 124, however, is one many consider the best fighter in MMA today.
St. Pierre has barely been tested since falling to Serra, a turning point in his career that has cultivated a master tactician. Although it is somewhat regrettable (from a fan's perspective) to see the once-electrifying St. Pierre develop into a risk-averse, conservative fighter, his success in doing so is undeniable. St. Pierre has mastered the art of avoiding damage and gaining dominant positions by blending sharp standup with peerless grappling prowess. Each fight since his loss to Serra has seen the disparity widen between St. Pierre and his opposition.
So, if GSP can get by Koscheck - an elite wrestler with a devastating right hand and the supposed "last man to win a round from GSP" - does that make him MMA's greatest fighter? Fedor Emelianenko tapped in the dry guard of a BJJ master and Anderson Silva had lost all four rounds of a fight before pulling a submission at the last. GSP hasn't been seriously threatened in a match since 2007.
It's impossible for me to put Fedor above St. Pierre at this point, but Silva is a different story altogether. The middleweight champion hasn't lost in five years, a span of time in which he repeatedly set the high-water mark for striking in MMA. I'm also of the belief that Silva's performance against Chael Sonnen only reaffirmed his place as MMA's greatest fighter; being incessantly controlled for 20+ minutes without losing composure is as impressive as it gets. It was the worst possible style matchup for Silva and he made a game opponent tap out.
With that said, I could easily see doubt creeping into my mind should GSP finish Koscheck in spectacular fashion. The contender is a legitimate top-5 fighter at welterweight and is perhaps the only man in the division who can match St. Pierre's wrestling ability. If GSP dispatches him with ease, I'd be willing to listen to any case for "Rush" as MMA's greatest fighter.
That scenario underscores what is perhaps a catch-22 for St. Pierre: if the champ plays it safe, content to be dull as long as he safely wins, the victories will pile up but he won't do much to enamor himself with vain, snobby fans like myself who have difficulty considering him the greatest fighter alive.