In the semi-main event of UFC 135: Jones vs. Rampage, Welterweights Matt Hughes and Josh Koscheck squared off. Koscheck took the fight on short notice after Diego Sanchez pulled out due to injury, and was fighting for the first time since being injured by Georges St. Pierre in December. The layoff didn't seem to impact Koscheck at all, as he picked up a first round KO victory over the Hall of Fame former champion Hughes.
From the beginning of the fight, it was clear that Koscheck was the bigger, more aggressive fighter in the stand-up. Hughes displayed good defense, showing that he came in anticipating a stand-up fight. Unfortunately for fans of the legend, Koscheck was simply too much. He finally managed to stagger Hughes late in the round, then never let up, earning the KO with mere seconds left in the round. Post-fight, a visibly teary Matt Hughes thanked the crowd, but insisted that he wasn't officially retiring just yet, instead asking the UFC to put him "on the shelf."
What was the high spot of this fight?
The fight ending combo showed good aggression and finishing tendencies from Koscheck, which is more than a lot of fighters with a wrestling base can claim. It was sad to see Hughes go down like that, but it was an impressive attack from Kos.
Where do these guys go from here?
Josh Koscheck finds himself in a tough spot. He is obviously still near the top of the Welterweight division, but there's really no reason for him to get a third shot at St. Pierre. So, where does he go? His brash personality makes him the kind of fighter who can make a relatively meaningless fight compelling, so maybe it's time for him to have some outside the box grudge matches. Before Diego went down, there was talk of either Koscheck vs. Stephan Bonnar, or, building off of a 7 year old grudge, Koscheck vs. Chris Leben. Either one would be fun.
Matt Hughes said it himself - he's not retired, but he's on the shelf. What does that mean exactly? Probably that he would compete in the right kind of legends fight, but he's not going to go out there and face just anyone. Question is, what legend fights are there for him? He could try to avenge those two Dennis Hallman loses, and for some reason, Royce Gracie keeps talking about a Hughes rematch, but I'm not sure either of those fights really appeal to the UFC. Could be some time before we see Hughes in action again, if ever.
Watch it now, later, or never?
Now. It's sad, but it may be the end of a legend, and that's worth it.
More BE coverage of UFC 135 in the full entry.