A tale of arrested development, as the fighter who never matured takes on the aging frat boy of the division in a contest which will probably leave the loser looking to see if there's still money in the banana stand.
The Foam vs. the Fur.
Welterweight (170 lbs)
History lesson / introduction to the fighters
Phil: Josh Koscheck is one of the few remaining holdouts from the earliest days of the Zuffa expansion. Probably the best athlete on Season 1 of TUF, he's been a staple in the welterweight division since then. Recent years have not been kind to him. GSP broke his face, he dropped a close decision to future champ Johny Hendricks, and then he got blown out of the water by Robbie Lawler, Tyron Woodley and Jake Ellenberger. Very strong competition, but he looked notably worse every time out.
Koscheck was the asshole (or at least one of the assholes) of his season of TUF. In these situations, the fighter often mellows a little over time, becoming gentler and more likable. Kos just hasn't really, has he?
David: Koscheck is clearly chasing the kind of demons only Lovecraft could write about, except instead of Cthulhu, these demons are made of water hoses, and low cut jeans in a place that doesn't have cable.
I don't know what the deal is with Koscheck. I'm sure he has friends who describe him as "nothing like the guy he plays on TV", but Koscheck seems like the kind of guy who could own Netflix, be married to Eva Green, and would still mope around like he's J.D. Salinger.
Phil: Erick Silva was the perpetual prospect-who-wasn't in the UFC. People would keep talking about how this talented young guy was just about to turn the corner... and now he's 30 years old and he's never won back-to-back bouts. To me there's something beyond just the boyish good looks which keeps people constantly misconstruing Silva's age and experience. He doesn't just look young. He fights young, bouncing around the cage, throwing maximum power into everything and splurging all his energy in joyous puppydog violence within minutes. The instinctive reaction upon watching him is: "well, if this young chap just took a minute to smell the roses and put a bit of a dampener on his enthusiasm, he could really be something." Then you realize that he's not young at all.
David: I didn't realize he had never won back to back fights. Thanks Mike! Err, I mean Phil. You've just put Silva's career in the only nutshell one can. Silva is basically Simon Pegg's character in World's End; "A man of your legendary prowess drinking fucking...rain! It's like a lion eating houmous."
What are the stakes?
Phil: Not getting cut? Koscheck has made a really solid career for himself in the UFC and has picked up a surprising amount of post-fight bonuses, but I don't think anyone has ever managed 5 straight losses and stayed with the UFC. Unless I'm wrong (I often am), Steve Cantwell's five losses are the current record. Conversely, I think Silva stays with Zuffa, even on a loss: flawed glass cannons make for must-watch viewing, which is what accounts for much of the meagre entertainment value for this card. But his hype would be well and truly dead.
David: People complained about the undercard for this one, but it may actually be better than the main card. I mean, I don't remember anyone on the prelims being 0-4 in their last four. Just saying.
Where do they want it?
Phil: Koscheck returned to his roots when he fought Ellenberger the last time out. He had a brief period in his career where he'd entertain lengthy stand-up exchanges with people who were almost always much better strikers than he was. A notable low point was when he lost the majority of a stand-up round to the ghost of Matt Hughes, before athleticism and power inevitably made up for his lacking technique. Fortunately, he's given that up, and has gone back to the blast double which carried him to victory over Paul Daley. It's still pretty potent and has some good drive on it, even if it's not quite the nigh-unstoppable weapon it once was.
David: Koscheck evolved, but he ended up at the midway point on the evolution of man chart. His problem is that he could never decide how to switch hit. His power doubles never meshed well in a dynamic way with his striking, and even though his striking was polished a little, it was only primed. Never given a fresh coat of paint. He can win this one though, and win it easily if he can avoid Silva's submissions. His takedowns are still strong as hell, and he could easily win fights from here on out with that one move alone.
Phil: Way back in the early years of his podcast Heavy Hands, our compatriot Connor Ruebusch described Erick Silva as perhaps the perfect anti-wrestler fighter. He's very difficult to take down, and punishes takedown attempts by snapping down the opponent or limp-legging out whilst throwing flurries of hammerfists or jumping on opportunistic submissions. At range he's powerful (if not exactly technical) and throws a hard, looping right hand and a murderous kick to the body. He's phenomenal at getting to the back and setting up chokes, but tends to absolutely burn himself out if they fail.
David: Yep. Perfect on paper. Wrestlers tend to panic a little when they keep getting hit while attempting their takedowns, but wrestlers also tend to have really good gas tanks, which makes Silva less than ideal as well. Silva is a lot like another fighter on this card in Amanda Nunes; great interval fighters. They can make plays of singular volition that can sway the bout in their favor, but inconsistency ruins whatever advantages they'd otherwise have due to their offense.
Insight from past fights?
Phil: If we're talking an AKA (or to be more accurate, ex-AKA) wrestler against Silva, the obvious answer is the Fitch fight. This is interesting for one main reason: Fitch won the first round, and dropped the second, which absolutely goes against the idea of Silva as a one round fighter. Instead, I think he's someone who tends to fold if there's significant pushback: if he really gets a chance to land his offense and it doesn't work, then it shakes him and drains his energy quickly.
David: Are we sure Koscheck is done wiping the foam off his mouth? He continues to get finished in absolutely brutal ways, and I wonder if we're underestimating the date and time for his career toe tag fitting. If Koscheck isn't pressuring Silva, I have to think Erick never feels in danger, and thus makes it look like his cardio issues are resolved. Silva looks like a rare case of cardio issues being largely mental, as you pointed out; it's one thing for his energy to wane, but Silva seems to abandon hope as well which amplifies his cardio problems rather than merely revealing them.
Phil: Koscheck still has power. I'd be hugely surprised if Silva walked into a Koscheck punch while fresh, but Kos can almost certainly hurt or even finish the Brazilian. He's also got an underrated choke submission game of his own.
David: Silva isn't exactly the most durable either. It's easy to think of Koscheck as fragile given the fact that he's been finished in his last three, but I have no doubt that Silva would come out looking far worse underneath the same schedule.
Phil: Sometimes the fight literally is as simple as "one guy is good at finishing early, the other guy gets finished early." Silva's cardio woes have mostly come about after he's had success but failed to fully capitalize, and it's hard not to see any success that he has just wiping Koscheck out. Erick Silva by TKO, round 1.
David: I feel like Koscheck is too angry to disappear completely, with or without the help of Dana. Josh actually has a fairly decent chin despite the number of KO's on his record, and we damn sure know he'll be the better fighter going into the 3rd. In addition, the Brazilians have been terrible at home lately to say nothing of Erick never winning twice in a row. I feel like this is Koscheck's Roy Jones' 'Ya'll must have forgot' moment, minus Antonio Tarver's wide eyed smile.