UFC 167 Preview: Josh Koscheck vs. Tyron Woodley

In the first of three welterweight bouts on the main card of UFC 167, Josh Koscheck faces recent UFC addition Tyron Woodley in a match that pits two fighters with extensive wrestling backgrounds against each other. Both of these guys need a big win here to stay relevant. Koscheck is coming off of back to back losses against two of the best in the division and got plastered by Robbie Lawler in his last fight. Woodley last fought in a lackluster split decision contest against Jake Shields.

Fighter Summary

Tyron Woodley (11-2 overall, 1-1 UFC)

Strengths: Fearsome strength and power, wrestling

Weaknesses: Still a little raw and unpolished at times

Josh Koscheck (17-7 overall, 15-7 UFC)

Strengths: Grappling and wrestling, KO power in his hands, smack talk

Weaknesses: Getting older, one trick pony at times

Fight Breakdown – This one is going to start off like any fight where both guys have that one punch KO power. They are both way too smart and cautious to just come out swinging and looking for a quick knockout. Instead, we’re going to see them circling each other and feeling each other out, looking for possible openings and setting up something mean.

Fights like this can either be really, really spectacular, when both guys really dig deep and go to war with each other, or very, very disappointing, when the crowd is waiting and waiting for that furious exchange and stunning ending that never comes. This one could very well fall into the latter category, as both guys want to win impressively, but will also respect each other very much and can’t afford to lose here.

Koscheck is probably a little more confident in his striking and knows what he wants to do, but Woodley has incredible power and explosiveness and could easily counter Koscheck with his own strikes. What could really benefit Koscheck is an assortment of kicks, which are really becoming more of a weapon in MMA recently, from kicks at knees (which should probably be made illegal), to leg kicks, body kicks and head kicks. Everyone knows Kos has punching power, but he can’t just focus on setting up those punches, or rather, it will be easier to set them up if he throws a variety of kicks as well to keep Woodley off balance. Woodley was over-cautious in his fight against Jake Shields and probably gave Shields’ striking a little too much respect, and Jake Shields isn’t exactly known as a wrecking ball striker. Koscheck has certified KO punching power and is a great wrestler, so Woodley will have to honor that and he’ll keep his distance and be wary of those big punches.

They’re both good wrestlers and we will very likely see a great deal of clinching against the cage. If someone gets tagged, don’t be surprised to see him lock on and get some recovery time in. Skill and technique is going to count for a lot in this fight, but whoever gets the takedown is probably going to do it by overpowering the other guy, and that sounds more like Woodley than Koscheck. It’s hard to believe the guy is a welterweight for how big he looks.

Woodley may find himself slightly outmatched in the stand-up and if that’s the case, he’s going to turn to his bread and butter, which is a nasty top control and ground and pound game. If he gets Koscheck down, he can really do a lot of damage but he has to set up his takedowns at the right moments. Just shooting point blank or from a standstill isn’t going to cut it against a guy as good as Koscheck. Kos is going to stuff any predictable takedown attempts, so Woodley should get in close and bully Kos against the cage, and shoot for a strong double or slam him if possible. Woodley should have an advantage in the clinch, but Koscheck is savvy enough to get out of trouble and keep this fight where he wants it.

It will be interesting to note how Woodley responds to Koscheck, who is a skilled veteran just as Jake Shields and Nate Marquardt are – both guys who Woodley lost to. Koscheck is going to test Woodley in pretty much every area, so Woodley has to keep a cool head and respond with confidence wherever the fight goes.

Key to Victory: Who can land the big punch?

Whoever can connect with a huge strike first will probably get the upper hand and increase their chances of winning the fight by a large margin. That sounds pretty straight-forward and it is, but the strike doesn’t have to be to the head. A big body kick or a high volume of leg kicks could do a lot to keep the opponent wary and on the defensive, and if a guy is wary and on the defensive for the majority of a fight, he loses it 9 times out of 10.

Of course, tagging the guy with a headshot would be ideal, and both of these guys are explosive and capable of doing that at any time. While both of them are strong wrestlers, they will probably be content to stay on the feet and see who can hit the other guy the cleanest. Whoever wins that battle very likely wins the war.

Why It Matters – Woodley has fared very well against guys in the middle tier, but when it comes to taking that step up into top ten contention, he just can’t seem to leap that hurdle. Koscheck is in that area and is basically the gatekeeper to the top ten in the Welterweight division. If Woodley can beat him in impressive fashion, he’s right back where he started after that huge finish of Jay Hieron. Let’s not pretend Jake Shields dominated Woodley or anything of the sort, it was a close, split decision loss. But Woodley has to show he can hang with these guys and make those gains that will catapult him up the division. He’s got a ton of potential and has the gifts to become a real terror in MMA, but much like a lot of guys who come from a single background, he has a ton of work to do to bring up his skill set so that he doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses.

Koscheck on the other hand, surprising as it is to say, may be looking at his walking papers with a loss here. It would be his third in a row and even with a win, his status at this point is pretty much cemented. He’s the guy you beat on the way up the ladder to get to title talk status, or else lose to so you can go back to the drawing board and figure out how to improve. A lot of his recognizable peers from TUF 1 aren’t even fighting anymore and Koscheck is almost 36, so he’s getting up there in years. Koscheck can still sell some tickets because he’s still a pretty good heel in MMA, but the problem with heels is that they have to win to stay relevant or they end up looking like bitter losers or a loud bark-no bite type. Chael Sonnen is a great example of someone who talks a lot of smack, but backs it up in the Octagon with wins against quality opponents. Koscheck is just in that weird zone, where we have seen guys who are still very good fighters, but they lose to better guys and end up fighting in different organizations the next time around. That’s been happening with so much frequency that it could definitely happen to Kos.

Both of these guys need a big W here and Woodley will finally break through and bully Koscheck around to get the victory.

Prediction – Woodley

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