Georges St-Pierre vs. Josh Koscheck
Josh Koscheck has done a great job of getting people enthused about this fight with his trash-talking on TUF 12, but I’m not convinced the outcome on Saturday will be different from back in 2007 when they first fought.
As he’s said in his pre-fight interviews, he has evolved as a fighter, but in reality it’s been primarily an evolution in his stand-up. The problem is that in their first meeting GSP had a clear edge in the wrestling, taking Koscheck down repeatedly, and in the years since the Canadian has been working hard to further refine those skills.
I also think Koscheck’s striking has now become over-rated. Certainly he’s come along way from his purely wrestling base, but he’s not a refined stand-up technician. He still relies heavily on his overhand right, and though he definitely has some power in his hands I believe people put too much significance on his highlight reel KO of Yoshiyuki Yoshida. I don’t see him as a devastating one punch KO artist.
It should be kept in mind that In recent times GSP has handled better strikers than Koscheck like Thiago Alves, BJ Penn and Dan Hardy with few problems. He also has more versatile striking than his opponent, mixing kicks and punches fluidly, and his training with Freddie Roach will have tightened up his boxing and opened up his counter-striking options.
When you factor in that GSP is now bigger and stronger than before, is the faster of the two, and that Koscheck has never been beyond three rounds in his career, plus the fact St.Pierre will have the backing of the biggest audience the UFC has ever seen in North America, the odds are firmly stacked in the challengers favor.
Having said all that, Koscheck could land something significant and change the complexion of the fight, but I think it’s far more likely that GSP will dominate with his naturally fluid mix of striking and wrestling, mixed in with an enhanced BJJ game fine tuned by working with Roger Gracie in preparation for this fight. He’ll be looking for a finish in this fight, and I think there’s a good chance he’ll get it.
Georges St.Pierre to win by submission in Rd3
Stefan Struve vs. Sean McCorkle
This is a curious choice for the co-main event fight, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be an entertaining heavyweight scrap.
Struve is certainly the more experienced fighter, and has fought a considerably higher level of competition than McCorkle throughout his career. For a big man he’s got surprisingly good BJJ and has finished the majority of his 20 career wins by submission. His striking remains a work in progress though. He has some raw tools thanks to his Dutch kickboxing training, but he still has difficulty using his reach to his advantage and as such he’s easier to hit than he should be.
McCorkle’s harder to assess given the caliber of many of his previous opponents. For the first time in his career he’s going to be significantly shorter than the man standing opposite him, giving up over 4″ in height to Struve despite being 6ft 7″ himself. What he does have his a weight advantage though, tipping the scales at around 265lbs, having cut down from well over 300lbs before joining the UFC. In his past fights he’s shown some heavy hands and that could be a problem for Struve who’s not got the strongest of chins.
McCorkle’s size could be an issue for Struve, but he has been training with similar sized kickboxers back in Holland, and overall I do feel the Dutchman has the superior skill-set and is still evolving at the age of just 22. This is a big step up for McCorkle, both in terms of opponent and going from opening fight on the prelims to co-main event, and I think it’ll prove to be too big of a hill to climb on this occasion.
Stefan Struve to win by submission in Rd2
Jim Miller vs. Charles Oliveira
UFC 124 doesn’t have the strongest main card we’ve ever seen but this in my opinion this is a great lightweight match-up.
The fact that Miller is as tough as old boots and has well rounded skills along with an unbreakable will has made him an exceptionally tough fighter to beat. That’s shown in his record, losing just once in eight fights in the UFC to date and the only two losses in his 20 fight career have come to the current two top ranking UFC lightweight’s Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard. A win here could and should propel him firmly into the title mix at 155lbs.
Meanwhile Oliveira is a new potential star in the division. Still just 22 years old he’s already got a well developed skill-set with slick striking and excellent Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He’s also a finisher – just one fight of his perfect 14-0 record has ended by decision. Like Miller a win here would be very big for his future at lightweight.
Realistically this fight could be fought anywhere, with Miller looking to pit his more rugged, straightforward striking against Oliveira’s more eye-catching moves, while the Brazilian enjoys fighting from his back and might be keen to test out his submission skills against the BJJ black belt on the mat.
I think Oliveira has a very bright future in the sport, but Miller is an exceptionally tough opponent to draw so early in his UFC career. Miller is tough to finish and I can see him using his experience to pressure the younger fighter and grind out a hard fought decision win. It’s going to be close though, and this could well end up being the Fight Of The Night.
Jim Miller to win by decision.
Joe Stevenson vs. Mac Danzig
Two former winners of The Ultimate Fighter show square off in another lightweight bout on the main card, with both men eager to get back to winning ways and secure their place in the rapidly changing 155lb landscape.
Stevenson has carved out a reputation as a solid all-rounder over the years who’ll give anyone a tough fight, but generally falls short against the best the division has to offer. He’s fallen in love with his hands in recent times, too his detriment at times, but it’s his grappling that still remains his best weapon and he’s got some extremely dangerous choke-based submissions .
Despite being an experienced campaigner Mac Danzig has struggled to assert himself in the UFC since winning TUF season 6, and in fact is perhaps lucky to still be in the promotion following a poor 3-4 run. That’s a little surprising given that he’s well versed on the mat and can hold his own on the feet. He has trouble stamping his authority on a fight over three rounds though and that could once again be a problem for him this weekend.
I like Stevenson here. He generally does well against this caliber of opposition and I think he can outwork and outmuscle danzig on the mat to get the nod on the judges scorecards.
Joe Stevenson to win by decision.
Thiago Alves vs. John Howard
Thanks to embracing the Dolce Diet the weight-cut to 170lbs shouldn’t be an issue for Alves in this fight which will make a refreshing change and perhaps give him more energy come fight night. Alves needs a win after two consecutive losses, but it’s worth bearing in mind that they came to two of the divisions best, GSP and Jon Fitch, neither of whom was able to finish him inside the distance.
Alves game is of course based around his excellent and very dangerous muay thai skills and solid takedown defense. Those are skills that will definitely come in handy against Howard who has KO power but isn’t nearly as refined or as versatile as the Brazilian standing up, and is more likely to hunt for takedowns in order to neutralize Alves offense and work on his ground and pound.
Even if Howard does get Alves down, which will be no easy task, he’ll have a hard time keeping him their as the ‘Pitbull’ has shown himself to be adept at eventually finding his way back to his feet, even against quality wrestlers like GSP.
Prediction: Howard’s a solid fighter but he’s not at the level of either of Alves recent opponents. I think this is a fight where Alves can remind the world of why he’s considered one of the best in the world at 170lbs as he gets the better of ‘Doomsday’ on the feet and earns a decisive victory late in the second round.
Thiago Alves to win by TKO in Rd2.
Prelims (Predicted winners highlighted in bold)
Mark Bocek vs. Dustin Hazelett
Jesse Bongfeldt vs. Rafael Natal
Matthew Riddle vs. Sean Pierson
Joe Doerksen vs. Dan Miller
TJ Grant vs. Ricardo Almeida
Pat Audinwood vs. John Makdessi