Their first meeting in 2007 was a rebirth of sorts for the Canadian GSP. Instead of using his karate and BJJ to win his first fight since losing the title to Matt Serra, St-Pierre debuted his new wrestling assault that has held the welterweight division hostage ever since. That said, I firmly believe we have to throw out the first fight as far as a gauge for how this fight will go.
Kos has admitted to neglecting his wrestling training going into the fight since he believed it was the striking game where that fight would be decided. As a long-time wrestler, I can tell you that if you neglect wrestling the little things that make you good fade quickly. In elite-level wrestling, everyone tends to have the same basic skill set, what makes you good is how well you can chain things together, your timing, and your instincts on when to pull the trigger. The longer you are off the mat and working on other things the more your skill there grows rusty. It was a critical mistake for Kos and it affected the outcome of the fight.
It is a mistake that Kos has vowed not to make again and, if his training is any indication, he will not. Kos has had a great camp in preparation for GSP and I suspect that will show in this fight. If there is one thing I have noticed about Kos over the years is that, he seems to fight to the level of his competition. So, when he fights a newcomer or someone he outranks, be worried for him but if he fights someone who outranks him, be worried for them.
GSP will not admit it, but you know he is losing a little sleep over Kos in this bout. Not because he is scared, but because he knows his game plan in this fight will decide the outcome one way or the other. It is obvious he is training his boxing heavily for this bout (side note, has any trainer been in both the boxing/MMA news more than Freddie Roach these past few months?) and his utilization of the jab could be what wins him the fight. I have said many times that the jab is the most important strike against and for wrestlers. It keeps distance and disrupts timing, while scoring every time in a judge’s mind. Working off the jab will be critical here, if St. Pierre sets everything he does off the jab, it will be a long night for Kos as GSP will play keep away with the belt.
While both sides have assured a finish, I see that being an unlikely outcome. I think both fighters have prepared for a five round bout and, despite what they say in the press, winning rounds is tops in each fighter’s game plan. Kos will likely be the aggressor in the takedown department if only to prove he is the better wrestler (which he is the better pure wrestler, though GSP uses his more often) and GSP will utilize his boxing to keep Kos out of range before setting up a takedown of his own. Expect there to be many last second takedown attempts in an effort to steal a round either way. He who has the most takedowns, likely wins this fight. It is that simple.
Stefan Struve vs. Sean McCorkle
The UFC 124 co-headliner between heavyweights Stefan Struve and Sean McCorkle has only made press for two things: being an odd choice for its card positioning and McCorkle’s trash talk. Just saying your opponent likes black guys is not enough though, and McCorkle knows this. Expect McCorkle to use the technique that has proven somewhat effective against the 6’11” giant, which is rushing in and trying to overwhelm the Dutchman. While submitting Hunt is not exactly an indicator of overall submission game, McCorkle will need to watch himself on the ground as anyone with the length of Struve can prove problematic. If McCorkle gets inside the reach of Struve, the massive Indiana product could make this a painful night for Struve.
Charles Olveira vs. Jim Miller
We are about to find out how good Charles Oliveira really is. While I am not on the hype train yet, I do think the Brazilian BJJ brown belt is a serious prospect. That said, he is facing a contender in Jim Miller who has only lost to lightweight champ Frankie Edgar and UFC 125 challenger Gray Maynard. Miller is a true hybrid fighter, in that he is a Division I wrestler, BJJ black belt, and blends a good mix of styles together and provides trouble for everyone he faces. Oliviera is a beast, he is scary slick on the ground, and an unconventional striking game provides trouble for everyone he faces. That said, he has not faced a fighter with the complete game that Miller has. Expect this to be a close bout, but in the end, Miller’s well roundedness should earn him another shot at one of the two men who’ve defeated him.
Joe Stevenson vs. Mac Danzig
In what is most likely a “loser goes home” scenario, Joe Stevenson meets fellow lightweight Mac Danzig. Of the two TUF champions, Stevenson is the better-rounded fighter and expect him to dictate where this fight goes, both in terms of location and end result. If the aggressive and intelligent Stevenson shows up, he should control the fight from start to finish. If he shows up unfocused, it could be a long night and impending cut notice from the UFC.
Thiago Alves vs. John Howard
Finally, John Howard is being marched out as what could be a form of human sacrifice for Thiago Alves. Howard is tough on his feet, but Alves is better. Howard can get it to the ground, but he’s no Fitch or GSP. The tougher opponent for Alves in this fight is himself. If he fails to make weight, he will be forced to depart the division and if he loses on top of that it could well be “bye-bye UFC” for the promising Brazilian. That said, word is Alves is doing a better job with his cut this time and will not make the mistakes he did last time. Of course, we have heard that before…
UFC 124 takes place this Saturday night at 10pe ET at Montreal’s Bell Centre. The event airs live on pay-per-view, while preliminary bouts Dan Miller vs. Joe Doerkson and Mark Bocek vs. Dustin Hazelett will be shown live via UFC.com.
Stay tuned to MMAFrenzy.com for complete UFC 124 coverage.