One of the highly-anticipated battles that will take place at UFC 106 will be a welterweight showdown between rising star Anthony "Rumble" Johnson (8-2, 5-2 UFC) and UFC veteran and The Ultimate Fighter Season 1 contestant Josh Koscheck (13-4, 11-4 UFC). The bout will feature the Sanshou striking prowess and wrestling of Johnson versus Koscheck's NCAA Division I wrestling pedigree combined with a newfound powerful striking game, a recipe for fireworks. Johnson enters the contest with three straight victories with his most recent coming only a month ago at UFC 104 against Yoshiyuki Yoshida. Koscheck crushed Frank Trigg in his last outing at UFC 103 in only 1:25 via TKO.
On paper, this is a pretty even match-up with Johnson's striking background and training with Sanshou expert Cung Le as his distinct advantage in the stand-up department. There is, however, a huge disparity in their perceived wrestling ability. Johnson was a national champion in college at Lassen Community College while Koscheck was a four-time NCAA Division I All-American with one NCAA title at Edinboro University. On paper, Koscheck obviously has a huge edge in terms of wrestling talent over his competition.
Unfortunately for Koscheck, MMA has a strange way of making these wide gaps in backgrounds become less of an issue due to the striking aspect of the sport. Johnson's length and strikes could make it a difficult task for Koscheck to explode for takedowns, but if Koscheck can manage to pull down Johnson -- he should be able to win the ground war with his better wrestling skills. If Johnson can tag him with strikes before that happens, Koscheck may be hindered from shooting to avoid that type of damage, which would completely nullify Koscheck's offense.
Johnson does have some physical gifts that will pose problems for Koscheck in a scramble for takedowns however. He cuts down heavily from around 185-195 while walking around well over 200 pounds. At fight time, he'll likely balloon to 180-190, and Koscheck will have to deal with that added wieght and the length of Johnson. After all, Johnson is nearly 4" taller than Koscheck.
Koscheck's heavy-handed striking ability will probably be nullified by Johnson's reach and kicks. He has a lot of power, and it'll be a huge mistake for Koscheck to try to wade through his reach to pummel his chin. It wouldn't surprise me if he tried though, but I think Koscheck's ultimate means to win this fight come in his conditioning and wrestling.
Johnson hasn't always shown the best conditioning, and for a guy who cuts down to 170 from such a high weight -- conditioning will always real its ugly head in the later rounds. If Koscheck can push the pace and put Johnson on his back, look for Koscheck to take this via decision.
Don't ask me why, but Koscheck's recent resurgence has made me a fan of the once-hated menace of Season 1 of The Ultimate Fighter. He seems much more focused on shutting up his competition over talking loads of trash before a fight. While his headhunting has put him in the loss column during his recent run, he still exhibits an aggressive style with that huge chip on his shoulder that he's out to prove everyone wrong about him. I find that to be an intriguing attribute. But this will be by far his toughest fight since Thiago Alves. I'm picking Josh Koscheck as he'll hopefully go back to that wrestling base after realizing he can't wade through Johnson's strikes, but it isn't a pick I'm completely sure about. It should be an exciting fight though.