Josh Koscheck has spent nearly his entire professional MMA career in the UFC. Of his 24 fights, all but 2 have taken place inside the Octagon, and Koscheck earned his way into the UFC through the first season of The Ultimate Fighter. Fans have watched him develop and improve as a fighter for nearly 8 years, and at his absolute peak he earned a title shot against Georges St. Pierre in 2010. Last night marked the official decline of the former #1 challenger, as Koscheck suffered a huge upset at the powerful hands of Robbie Lawler, marking his first ever losing streak. It dropped Josh to just 2-3 in his last 5 fights, and also sent him to just his second loss via strikes (the other famously came against Paulo Thiago in another big upset).
Under normal circumstances, Koscheck would likely be matched up with an even lower opponent than Lawler to give him a win. After all, he's a TUF 1 original, and the majority of the cast members are still in the UFC today. But Dana White has made it clear that we could see up to 100 fighters chopped off the roster, and Koscheck's friend and long-time training partner Jon Fitch is already one of the casualties.
White's rationale behind Fitch's release was that he was "really expensive", and at just 2-2-1 in his last 5, he dropped from #1 in the WW rankings down to #9. Fitch was on a downward trend and his performances did not justify his salary. If we're going to go by that metric, Koscheck should go as well. As Tim Burke pointed out on Wednesday, Koscheck's salary is $73,000, a full $7,000 more than Fitch. Josh was previously the top contender, and heading into last night he was the #8 ranked welterweight. The loss to Lawler should take him out of the top 10, possibly for good.
Koscheck, like Fitch, is 35 years old, and his fall from the top of the 170 lbs division has been far more precipitous than Fitch's. It should be clear that by no means is Robbie Lawler a bad fighter, but he hadn't competed at 170 lbs in 9 years, was coming off a loss in Strikeforce, and some books had Koscheck as high as -450 for a reason. This was supposed to be an easy fight for him, and he lost badly. Lawler was able to stuff Koscheck's final takedown attempt, sprawl, and land the heavy strikes necessary to stop the bout.
Koscheck's name value from TUF and previous high slots on PPV and Spike TV is probably one of the stronger justifications for his roster spot, but it's hard to cling to "name value" when you're opening up the main card. If the UFC wants to be consistent with their roster cuts -- and they almost certainly won't -- I believe Koscheck should be given the pink slip. If you did a "blind resume" and put Koscheck's recent fights juxtaposed to Fitch's, the argument for cutting Koscheck is stronger than Fitch solely because of Lawler being a worse defeat than elite welterweights Demian Maia and Johny Hendricks.
Perhaps the long-term issue for Koscheck isn't necessarily his status as even a top 20 welterweight, but his right eye. Georges St. Pierre broke Koscheck's right orbital in the 1st round of their title fight, and relentlessly jabbed it for the remaining four rounds. That eye was subsequently swollen in his next four bouts, including against a past-his-prime Matt Hughes, and Lawler's finishing strikes all either directly targeted or just missed the orbital bone. It has been a clear cause for concern for Koscheck, and I think it has negatively affected his performances.
Will the UFC release Josh Koscheck? I don't think so. Dana White gave a non-answer in last night's press conference regarding Josh's future, and he's historically been super-lenient with anyone from TUF 1. But for consistency's sake? I think Koscheck's time is up, and unlike Fitch, he is quite clearly no longer one of the best welterweights in the world.