UFC WELTERWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP:
Thiago Alves (No. 3 WW) vs. John Howard
Jim Miller vs. Charles Oliveira
Joe Stevenson vs. Mac Danzig
Stefan Struve vs. Sean McCorkle
Dan Miller vs. Joe Doerksen
Ricardo Almeida vs. T.J. Grant
Dustin Hazelett vs. Mark Bocek
Matt Riddle vs. Sean Pierson
Jesse Bongfeldt vs. Rafael Natal
John Makdessi vs. Pat Audinwood
St-Pierre (20-2) Vs. Koscheck (15-4) is easy to dismiss as a fight GSP will dominate from bell to bell, but the truth is Josh Koscheck looked phenomenal in his last two fights. His best hope to win is to catch GSP early with his striking and amazing takedown skills. Both of St-Pierre's losses came in the first round, and when the fight goes into the later rounds the endurance and conditioning of GSP always overwhelms his opponents.
Koscheck will have to push this fight to the limit to win, and he says he has no pressure going in like the hometown hero does. Look for him to explode early and try to engage in a toe to toe brawl with GSP first, and if that doesn't work he'll work his takedowns and try some ground and pound.
St-Pierre will want to make this match about complete control. He'll take the fight wherever it goes, but he has to react quickly when he strays into areas where he can't rely on his greatest strengths. He has to neutralize Koscheck's boxing, stuff the early takedowns, and grapple out of trouble if he gets into any on the ground. St-Pierre would be wise to work Koscheck up against the fence and pound him with Muay Thai.
Josh Koscheck's camp didn't get as much well-rounded training as St-Pierre's did on the last season of The Ultimate Fighter. St-Pierre's team participated in a punch-mitt session with Freddie Roach, trainer of world class boxers Manny Pacquiao and Amir Khan. GSP even brought in a heavy boozer and Muay Thai specialist who literally tenderized the team with brutal striking lessons.
Meanwhile, Koscheck brought himself to most TUF practices, and not much else other than his attitude.
It is clear from this overwhelming evidence of his attempts to be well-rounded that St-Pierre is always conscious of the need to improve his overall game. Though Koscheck may well be improving in his own way, where is the proof he's going to the same lengths to bring in such great tutors and trainers to teach him what he might not know enough about? He talks a great deal of trash and Dana White referred to him in a recent press conference as "not a bad guy" but definitely "a d***." It's hard to believe that crass behavior alone can win this fight for Koscheck, but it's being hyped as a major selling point.
If anyone saw Koscheck's domination of Paul Daley, Koscheck was obviously playing mental games as much as he could leading up to the outburst that ended Daley's UFC career. Whatever sweet nothings were whispered in Daley's ear, they must have been downright wrong on many levels to elicit such an incredibly unsportsmanlike post-fight punch. Perhaps this is a sign that Koscheck uses every advantage he can to win fights and GSP shouldn't underestimate him as purely a character. He can also back up his talk with action, another reason why Daley was so pissed off he had to punch Koscheck after the fight. Josh never gave him a chance to hit him in the actual fight.
George St-Pierre wins this fight if it goes to a decision, but there may actually be an all out war early on that will totally kill any hopes of a decision. If it becomes a striking battle from the jump, Koscheck wins, but St-Pierre is smart and shouldn't let that happen. He'll work his way into a controlling position and use ground and pound or submission attempts to finish this one in his own unique way. If this fight makes it to the 4th round it will be a miracle.
John Howard (14-5) and Thiago Alves (17-7) face each other on the undercard. Alves is always dangerous, but his last win was in 2008 when he beat Koscheck by unanimous decision at UFC 90. He's since lost two unanimous decisions in a row: one to George St. Pierre at UFC 100 and the other to Jon Fitch at UFC 117 this past August. Over the same stretch since Alves last won in the Octagon, John "Doomsday" Howard beat 5 out of his last 6 opponents since making his UFC 94 debut on January 31, 2009 with a split decision win over Chris Wilson. Jake Ellenberger stopped Howard's win streak on August 1 of this year on the UFC Live 2 card, but Howard's heart was a key component of the fight. Only the doctor could prevent Howard from keeping the battle going despite his eye being swollen to near softball size.
Howard's a true warrior, and Alves is one of those fighters people seem to know and love but don't particularly want to keep watching if he doesn't get back to his old form. This is a bigger test for Alves than it is for Howard. Look for Alves to be overwhelmed by Howard, who will use his reach to get the better striking angles. Howard looked incredible leading up to his first loss and won't neglect to learn from it. He's been the more active fighter over the past few years and is hungrier and more suited to make a statement with a win in this fight than Alves is. Howard ought to win by knockout late in the first or in the second round.
Joe Stevenson (31-11) vs. Mac Danzig (19-8-1) rounds out the top 3 fights on this card and gives both guys a chance to prove they are still relevant in the sport's stacked 155-pound division. Both men have had plenty of ups and downs during their respective UFC careers, but Danzig comes in having lost four of his last 5 fights. He's 3-4 overall as a UFC fighter to Stevenson's 8-5.
Stevenson is the more experienced fighter and has fought and competed well with the best of the best in the division. Danzig's been all over the map in recent years, and he's a relative baby in the UFC compared to Stevenson.
Joe Stevenson should dominate this fight, and if Danzig doesn't perform at the top of his game he might even face elimination. Dana White's been quick to throw guys right out of the league when they have disappointing performances lately, and Danzig could be next if he doesn't go out and really put on a show Saturday night. Stevenson always comes to battle, and his exciting toe-to-toe brawling style will be the breadwinner in this fight. Look for Stevenson to get a second or third round ground and pound or stand-up knockout.
For more on these fights and the rest of the card check out this Video Preview