In one of the more important match-ups taking place on the UFC 113 main card, NCAA Division I wrestling champion and newly-minted knockout artist Josh Koscheck (16-4, 12-4 UFC) will take on Team Rough House member and British Muay Thai striker Paul Daley (23-8-2, 2-0 UFC) in a welterweight showdown that could potentially put the winner in a coaching stint on the next season of The Ultimate Fighter, across from current champion Georges St. Pierre. The added bonus of a public hatred for one another has also fueled quite a bit of hype into this fight.
Koscheck has been on a tear as of late. In his last four fights, he's made somewhat of a transformation from a one-dimensional wrestler to a fighter who can also bring enormous power to his striking game. The improvement in his striking has caused a shift in the idea that Koscheck can be outstruck, and it has really allowed him to become one of the most dangerous fighters in the division. As evident in his battle with Anthony Johnson, opponents must now be aware that Koscheck can also hurt them badly standing while also being very dangerous on the ground.
Although Koscheck was upset by Paulo Thiago at UFC 95, he did manage to devastate Yoshiyuki Yoshida at UFC: Fight for the Troops, blast Frank Trigg at UFC 103, and submit Anthony Johnson at UFC 106. All his most recent wins ended by stoppage, ending much of the talk that Koscheck, historically, wasn't a finisher. That's all changed.
But he may have met his match in the striking department as he'll face a heavy-handed Dutch-trained Muay Thai bomber in Paul Daley. Daley is currently riding a four-fight win streak with crushing knockouts over Dustin Hazelett and Martin Kampmann in his current ride with the UFC. He does have some previous losses to Nick Thompson and Jake Shields within the span of the last few years, but he's been an absolute wrecking machine in his last two fights.
Daley brings a highly technical stand-up game to this fight, much like many of the members of Team Rough House. He keeps his hands in prime position for defense, but he's also able to quickly throw for power from that position. He also happens to be very accurate and quick, further cementing the idea that Daley could run through much of the competition in the UFC welterweight division by way of overwhelming striking.
There are flaws in his game however. Most notably, his ground game is almost non-existent in the sense that submissions aren't a way in which Daley wants to end a fight. His takedown defense and overall abilities in escaping from his back have improved significantly, but we'll probably never see a Paul Daley who transitions with a reversal and looks for the submission.
Daley's improvements in his takedown defense have continued over the course of his career. He was able to stuff John Alessio on multiple ocassions during their MFC 19 battle, and he was even able to stop Jake Shields from taking him down a few times at EliteXC: Heat. Shields eventually submitted Daley, but Daley proved in that fight that he was very tough to finish as he scrambled back to his feet a couple of times, something that many of today's best fighters would find troubling against Shields. Strength is one of the huge advantages Daley has over opponents, and it does allow him to power out of disadvantageous ground positions.
This fight should be a bit different. While Daley holds the significant edge in the striking department, Koscheck's NCAA Division I wrestling background, brutal ground and pound, and ability to submit opponents on the ground all combine into a very formidable skill-set made to beat Paul Daley. Koscheck was talking about striking with Daley in the lead-up to this event, but he's recently rescinded on those comments and said he'd more than likely choke out Daley in round 1.
Koscheck isn't a lengthy Nick Thompson who can work the jab with an immense reach advantage behind him, so he'll be looking for the takedown immediately in this fight. Daley's improvement is the huge question, and it wouldn't surprise me if his speed is something Koscheck has problems handling if Daley happens to stuff him and unload immediately.
I'm taking Josh Koscheck to the bank in this battle. While Daley is an exciting fighter who I love to watch, I think Koscheck's wrestling is the big difference. Daley may be improving, but Koscheck is one of the best in the takedown department when he actually wants to put opponents on their back. I don't see him struggling mightily to do that to Daley. I'll even take Koscheck's prediction. Rear naked choke, Round 1.