In what could be considered one of the most highly-anticipated title showdowns in recent memory, current UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre (20-2, 15-2 UFC) will aim to defend his crown as he battles fellow The Ultimate Fighter season twelve coach and #1 contender Josh Koscheck (15-4, 13-4 UFC). The bout's anticipation level has exploded over the past few days due to a weigh-in that saw Josh Koscheck booed with discontent by Montreal fans while Georges St. Pierre received a hero's welcome. Many of the interviews in the lead-up to the event have also been pure gold in producing a storyline that may make this one of the most significant love-hate relationships we've ever seen between a fighter and the fans. Whether you love or hate Josh Koscheck, he has single handedly created an atmosphere for success in a business sense for the UFC.
But that's only half of the intrigue in the match-up. While producing incredible revenues from a single event is something the UFC strives for, Josh Koscheck will be hoping that he can shock the world on Saturday night by dethroning the champion and walking out of the arena smirking with the UFC welterweight belt around his waist. Most fans don't see that happening, and the bookmakers have tabbed Koscheck as a near 4-to-1 underdog.
The line of thinking that goes into those odds seems a bit skewed toward the dominance that Georges St. Pierre has put on display in the Octagon over the past three years, and it's hard not to agree with that logic. St. Pierre has defeated Dan Hardy, Thiago Alves, Matt Hughes, Matt Serra, B.J. Penn, and Josh Koscheck since UFC 69 in April of 2007, and he's done so in impressive fashion. While St. Pierre has defeated the who's who of his division, Koscheck has slowly gained popularity, not because of his strength of competition, but his more exciting style since losing to St. Pierre at UFC 74.
While popularity versus skill normally ends badly for the fighter who's been pushed to the top by antics other than performing well in the Octagon against solid competition, Koscheck is a top flight NCAA Division I wrestler who has burst back onto the scene with knockout power. He's by no means a 4-to-1 underdog.
Koscheck's wrestling, at least in this rematch, should be much more effective. As Jon Fitch alluded to in a few recent interviews, Koscheck apparently didn't take St. Pierre's wrestling seriously in their first match-up. He's also added knockout power to his stand-up game, something that became more prominent after his first loss to St. Pierre.
Can Koscheck legitimately threaten St. Pierre's reign at the top of the division? I think he can, but the safe bet in this match-up is Georges St. Pierre. His skill-set should give him the advantage in all areas of this showdown, but Koscheck has the all-mighty "unpredictability" factor in his powerful hands. While most believe St. Pierre crushes Koscheck in this rematch, we've seen a similar style match-up on the feet in the past that ended in Georges St. Pierre being upset.
In the predictions post, I went with Josh Koscheck, and I'm still rooting for him to pull off the upset. The safe, objective pick here is Georges St. Pierre. And in a five round fight, he's definitely the pick if you feel this fight will go the full twenty-five minutes. He should be able to wear down Koscheck and out point him in this fight, but I'm banking on Koscheck's heavy hands to do most of the talking tonight.