UFC 143 preview: Koscheck vs. Pierce
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Josh Koscheck (16-5) vs. Mike Pierce (13-4)
In welterweight action, "The Ultimate Fighter" winner Koscheck faces an unheralded adversary in Pierce, who could seize a major opportunity on Saturday night.
The 34-year-old Koscheck, a former NCAA Division I champion and four-time All-American, knocked out UFC hall of famer Matt Hughes in September.
The American Kickboxing Academy product was returning from an extended layoff as he underwent corrective surgery to repair a broken orbital bone suffered in his bout with UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre in December 2010.
Koscheck has been a staple in the UFC since 2005, defeating the likes of Diego Sanchez, Chris Lytle, Frank Trigg, Anthony Johnson and Paul Daley to prove his worth as an evolved mixed martial artist.
Early in his UFC journey, Koscheck was dubbed a one-dimensional wrestler. But the Pennsylvania native has knocked out numerous opponents with his heavy hands and has also earned his Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt under Dave Camarillo.
Koscheck's wrestling, his strongest weapon, also happens to be his opponent's strong suit.
The 31-year-old Pierce, a member of Team Quest, is an NCAA Division I wrestler himself. The Oregon native made his UFC debut in December 2009, going 5-2 with wins over Brock Larson and Paul Bradley and decision setbacks against Koscheck's teammate Jon Fitch and Johny Hendricks, who knocked out Fitch this past December.
Koscheck is particularly motivated because Pierce actually called him out. He's not about to become a stepping stone for aspiring welterweight contenders, but an upset would change the division's landscape considerably.
Pierce is a tough fighter who likes to grind out his opponents, but Koscheck marks a major step up in competition. That doesn't mean Pierce can't hold his own, but "Kos" has been in there with the best and he should use his experience to win key exchanges and earn the tight decision nod.
Verdict: Koscheck via decision