Since Georges St.-Pierre fought Josh Koscheck to a unanimous 29-28, 29-28, 30-27 decision at UFC 74 on August 25th of 2007, the Montreal native has won six straight fights, all of them with a belt on the line, to become arguably the greatest pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
What's impressive about the scoreline from the first GSP/Koscheck fight is that it is the last time St.-Pierre has lost a round. That's two rounds against Matt Hughes, two rounds against Matt Serra, five against Jon Fitch, four against BJ Penn, and five against Thiago Alves and Dan Hardy.
He's on an impressive winning streak but has drawn criticism for his inability to finish fights. Dan Hardy was very weak competition, and it's been GSP's only fight in 2010, way back in March at UFC 111.
St.-Pierre returns home to Montreal to fight Koscheck Saturday at UFC 124. This is a home where GSP scored his last mid-round stoppage victory against Matt Serra for the undisputed welterweight belt. It was an important fight because he not only won the belt at home, but also meant he had, in consecutive fights, beat the two people on the planet who have bested him in a fight.
Since losing to GSP, Josh Koscheck, who has billed himself as the villain, has bounced up and down welterweight rankings, often finding himself as the main event on free fight cards. He's 13-4 in the UFC, having lost fights to St.-Pierre, Alves, Drew Fickett and Paulo Thiago. His last two fights were mired in controversy; in both fights he dove to the mat after pretending to take a knee when he was on his knees (kneeing a downed opponent is illegal in mixed-martial arts, Koscheck's opponents were both docked a point) and opened his fingers to gouge Anthony Johnson at UFC 106. His last fight against Paul Daley at UFC 113, the last fight in Montreal, he lay on top of Daley for three rounds and scored a unanimous victory and a glancing cheap-shot from Daley after the final bell which got Daley cut from the UFC.
He's hated by fighters and fans alike. After his fight in Montreal, which took place after the Penguins beat le Canadien in Game 5 of the Eastern Semifinals last year, he had some choice words for the Bell Centre faithful:
Both St.-Pierre and Koscheck enter with similar styles. Both have a strong wrestling base and tremendous takedown ability. The fight will not end with a standing knockout, but will be probably decided on who is able to stay on top of the other for the longest amount of time.
When they last fought, Koscheck was supposed to have superior wrestling, being a wrestler in high school and college, but GSP bested him in that category. GSP has improved steadily ever since and has had opponents on their backs for nearly an hour and 35 minutes in his last four fights combined.
Unless Koscheck has improved that facet of his game, GSP should have the early takedowns and the bulk of the action on the mat. His weakness does come by the fact he does often not finish. Koscheck is explosive. He scored a beautiful rear-naked choke submission on Johnson and had an on-the-mat TKO against Frank Trigg in his fight before that. GSP probably recognizes that you can't put Koscheck on the mat and let seconds tick away, you'll probably have to finish him before you give him too many chances to come at you.
Koscheck, however, has never fought in a championship fight and thus has never seen action past the third round. If the fight makes it into the championship fourth and fifth rounds, it might be too much for Koscheck.
UFC President Dana White made sorta-headlines by proclaiming that St.-Pierre is the most famous Canadian athlete worldwide which led a number of mainstream personalities to yell "Gretzky?!?!?" in a collectively annoying voice.
White brings up some good points, but I doubt he actually believes that more people have heard of GSP than Wayne Gretzky, or even Sidney Crosby around the world. He's a promoter, and he's doing his job. He's hyping this fight in Canada and getting his product plastered onto TSN, Sportsnet, Globe and Mail and the 'Eh' Factor a week ahead of the fight.
Meanwhile, with Ontario now regulating MMA, Rogers Centre will host a huge card at UFC 131 in April. Everybody wants to see GSP fight middleweight champion Anderson Silva somewhere down the line, but I guess we'll wait until after the Saturday fight to wildly speculate on upcoming cards.
Preliminary (7 EST):
Middleweight: Jesse Bongfeldt vs. Rafael Natal
Welterweight: Sean Pierson vs. Matt Riddle
Welterweight: TJ Grant vs. Ricardo Almeida
Lightweight: Jon Makdessi vs. Pat Audinwood
Spike TV card (9 EST):
Lightweight: Mark Bocek vs. Dustin Hazelett
Middleweight: Joe Doerksen vs. Dan Miller
Main Card (10 EST):
Welterweight: Thiago Alves vs. John Howard
Lightweight: Joe Stevenson vs. Mac Danzig
Lightweight: Jim Miller vs. Charles Oliveira
Heavyweight: Stefan Struve vs. Sean McCorkle
Welterweight Championship: Georges St.-Pierre vs. Josh Koscheck
Bold indicates Canadian content, to comply with CRTC laws*
*not actual laws
Another side note, I guess, is that this fight effectively ends The Ultimate Fighter Season 12, where the two went up against each other coaching, where GSP's fighters went 8-3 against Koscheck's. I don't watch the series, but, ya know. Some people do.
Anything else I've missed? Overlooked? Anywhere I'm blatantly wrong? Don't be afraid to pipe up in the comments. A full recap will hopefully come by Sunday morning, if you've missed the pay-per-views.