Tonight is Ultimate Fight Night 22 followed by the season premiere of the 12th season of UFC’s hit reality show “The Ultimate Fighter.” The hook for the season is the rivalry between opposing coaches Josh Koscheck and UFC Welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre, with the two facing off in December in a title match.
The last time the two had met was in August 2007. Koscheck was a young fighter on the rise in the division and GSP was looking to climb his way back into title contention after a stunning knockout loss to Season 4 winner Matt Serra.
Koscheck made a name for himself in the show’s inaugural season as a brash, outspoken Middleweight with a penchant for wrestling and not much else. Over time he has developed into a solid striker in his own right with a few memorable knockout wins under his belt. Amazingly, he’s also managed to somehow step up his game considerably in the trash-talk department.
Many fighters will concede to trash-talking as a means of gaining a psychological advantage over their opponent. Conventional wisdom has held that it’s a way to get into an opponent’s head and make him doubt himself, or catch him at a moment in the fight where his emotions get the better of him and he drops his guard. In other words, make Georges St. Pierre get too angry or upset to remember who he is and give the trash-talking Koscheck a chance to find the chink in the seemingly impenetrable armor of the best pound for pound fighter in the world.
From recent observation, though, I’m starting to wonder if we need to re-think that stance. Not because trash talk doesn’t work, but rather because it may not hurt the opponent so much as help the one doing the talking.
Just look at Chael Sonnen. While he had been impressive in performances against Yushin Okami and Nate Marquardt and had always been a solid Middleweight fighter, he’d never been seen as a world beater and was not thought to be anywhere near the same caliber of fighter as Anderson Silva. Yet when the two squared off recently, Sonnen dominated Silva for four and a half rounds. It was as if Silva went in there with one arm and two broken legs; as if he’d never encountered anybody with a ground game before. Which as we all know isn’t the case, nor is he one to let trash talk get the better of him.
Sonne’s a solid wrestler and a smart fighter, but his real strength is the frightening level of confidence he gains in preparation for a fight. Some of it is natural. Much of it, though, comes from the blurring of the line between hype and faith in your abilities being blurred as a fight approaches. As ridiculous as Sonnen’s statements and claims sounded in the build-up to his title shot, he went and did exactly what he said he would. At first, he was trying to convince everyone he could beat Silva. He ended up doing something far more important: he convinced himself he could, and he got closer than anyone has in the UFC.
Koscheck is cut from the same cloth, by way of both his wrestling background and his trash talk. He’s a solid grappler who has evolved and adapted his game to become a legitimate and consistent threat at his weight. He’s also no stranger to bold, cocky statements, bravado, and trying to sting his opponents with personal barbs.
In recent fights it hasn’t seemed to affect his opponents much, and it definitely won’t affect a dedicated and focused fighter like Georges St. Pierre. It does, however, make Koscheck a more confident fighter, and a confident Josh Koscheck is not someone you want to be in a cage with.
I suggest you discount what happened in their first fight. That was three years ago and Koscheck, while not necessarily green, wasn’t the fighter he is now. Not only is he more well-rounded, he’s also that much more confident.
Despite what the odds and analysts may say in the next few months, this could be Georges St. Pierre’s toughest challenge yet.
And it’s all because of Josh Koscheck’s big mouth.