Photo by Esther Lin for MMA Fighting.
About 26 months ago an unheralded welterweight named Mike Pierce gave American Kickboxing Academy fighter Jon Fitch -- a long-time top 3 fighter and UFC title challenger -- a scare at UFC 107. Last night at UFC 143 he did it again to Fitch's AKA teammate Josh Koscheck
Koscheck was able to ride out the storm and take a split decision win over Pierce, but it might be an indicator that Koscheck's time near the top of the division is coming to an end. After all, getting tagged and hurt by Pierce in the third round of their bout was the first sign of the questionable chin that cost Fitch in his most recent bout, a KO loss to Johny Hendricks.
Koscheck is 34-years-old and sat out most of 2011 after having his orbital bone shattered in his title fight loss to Georges St. Pierre at UFC 124. It was his second loss to the champion and as long as GSP has the title, Koscheck will likely be out of the hunt.
"I went out there and put a beating on him," said Koscheck after the fight. "He did bring some good, not great, tools to the table. He is an ok wrestler. I knew he was a tough kid going into the fight. I didn't have the urge to fight him but I'm down for a challenge and I found a way to win. It feels good to get back in the octagon and gain more experience. It wasn't my best performance, but it wasn't my worst. I'm ready for my next challenge now. I may talk a lot but I can back it up."
"Josh is a tough guy. I'm disappointed. I came at him and tried to put the pressure on and get inside his head. It was an extremely close fight," said Pierce after the bout.
While interim champ Carlos Condit decides whether or not to wait until possibly November for GSP to recover from ACL surgery, Koscheck will likely be thrown to the wolves. The division is full of young, hungry and dangerous wrestlers just like Mike Pierce, except faster, stronger and even more skilled.
Does Josh Koscheck still have what it takes to fend off comers like Johny Hendricks, Jake Ellenberger, Rick Story and Erick Silva? Only time will tell.