MONTREAL – It has been over three years since Georges (Rush) St. Pierre and Josh Koscheck first fought.
The two met in the co-main event of UFC 74 in August 2007. At the time Koscheck (15-4) had won five in a row, while St. Pierre (20-2) was looking to bounce back after suffering a devastating knockout at the hands of Matt (The Terror) Serra.
St. Pierre went on to shock the MMA world, and Koscheck, by out-wrestling the four-time NCAA Division I All-American wrestler to capture a unanimous decision victory. It was a harsh lesson for Koscheck and the first step of a dominant seven-fight win streak for St. Pierre.
Koscheck admits St. Pierre was the better man that night, but said a lot has changed as they get ready to headline UFC 124 in a welterweight title fight at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
“Georges won the fight fair and square,” Koscheck said. “I'm not going to sit here and make excuses -- 'Oh, I wasn't ready, I didn't focus on wrestling' -- he beat me. He had the smarter game plan and he won the fight.
“It's been three years and I'm not the same fighter I was in 2007; I can guarantee you that. I'm coming out to finish this fight.”
Since dropping the first round to Koscheck back at UFC 74, St. Pierre has won 25 straight rounds. Meanwhile, Koscheck has been victorious in six of his last eight contests, which included highlight reel knockouts of Dustin (McLovin') Hazelett, Yoshiyuki (Zenko) Yoshida, Frank (Twinkle Toes) Trigg, as well as a submission win over Anthony (Rumble) Johnson.
St. Pierre said he expects the end result will be the same at UFC 124, except this time he won't let it go to a decision.
“The main thing I’ve been working on for this fight has been my finishes,” St. Pierre said. “If there are three things I'm very good at, it's fighting guys that trash talk, guys who come from a strong wrestling base and I'm especially good in a rematch because I can adapt myself to any kind of fighting style.
“Josh has the three components. He trash talked a lot, he has a very strong wrestling background with good standup and this is a rematch. It's the best kind of match up for me and I can't wait.”
Koscheck said he feels confident because he already knows St. Pierre's strategy.
“I definitely know how Georges St. Pierre wants to fight,” Koscheck said. “Regardless of who he's working with and what he brings to the table, I know that his game plan is to use his speed, get inside and try to take me down.
“Three years ago I learned a valuable lesson. You don’t get second chances in life very often. This is the second chance that I get a crack at Georges St. Pierre and I’ve prepared very well for this. I believe that I’m going to be the champion on Saturday night.”
St. Pierre said he looks forward to sending Koscheck packing back down the welterweight rankings.
“When I beat him, it's going to be the end of it,” St. Pierre said. “It will have been two times that I beat him. If he's going to lose to me two times, he knows it's going to take him a long time before he (gets another title shot) or maybe he'll never get one ever again.”
UFC 124 will feature a co-main event between giants Stefan (Skyscraper) Struve and Sean (Big Sexy) McCorkle. At six-foot-11, Struve (20-4) is the tallest fighter in the heavyweight division, while McCorkle (10-0) is tied in second place with Travis (Hapa) Browne at six-foot-seven.
Perhaps the only thing bigger than the competitors themselves has been McCorkle's mouth in the lead up to the fight. McCorkle began insulting Struve with a thread on the MMA Underground forum and has since taken to posting shots on his Twitter account.
“Struve has won 2.3x as many fights as me. I also tried to figure out the loss ratio, before I remembered that you can't divide by zero,” McCorkle wrote in one of his more PG Tweets.
“Sometimes I wonder if life as a 2nd tier UFC heavyweight is really all it's cracked up to be. That's when I call Stefan Struve and ask him.”
Firing back, Struve started a Photoshop contest for Underground users to do the mudslinging for him. However, Struve admitted he's not one for smack talk.
“This is the first time that someone has talked so much before a fight,” Struve said. “I did the Photoshop competition, but I said I wouldn't be going back and forth with him on the Internet. Photoshop was good, but I don't like the trash talk.”
McCorkle has only fought once in the UFC, submitting Mark Hunt with a straight armbar in the first preliminary bout of UFC 119. He now finds himself in the spotlight of one of the biggest shows of the year, which some critics claim is unwarranted.
“I think it just comes from people resenting some of the stuff I've been saying,” McCorkle said. “I'm not going to apologize to anyone for being funny or witty. I'm just being myself and doing my job to hype the fight. I guess we'll see Saturday night.
“All the guys in the UFC can really fight and Stefan has a better resume than me, but that doesn't matter when the octagon door closes. It's going to be about who the tougher guy is and who implements their game plan. Either way, I'll be better looking.”
Though McCorkle's trash talking has generated a lot of interest in the fight, UFC president Dana White denied that it was the sole reason the bout was placed in the co-main slot.
“A lot of people have asked that question,” White said. “I think this is a fun heavyweight fight. Struve has proven to be the real deal. This guy's the comeback kid. In the second round of every fight he comes back and puts on a great show. To continue to build our heavyweight division, this is what we made our co-main event. I think Struve has earned a co-main event slot.
“One of the things that makes this sport so unique, especially in the fight business, is a lot of times guys respect each other. There's not a lot of trash talk. Trash talking is always fun, but it depends on how far it goes. I don't ever encourage trash talking, but when it naturally happens it definitely doesn't suck (for business).”
Rounding out the pay-per-view portion of UFC 124, Thiago (Pitbull) Alves meets John (Doomsday) Howard, TUF winners Mac Danzig and Joe (Daddy) Stevenson square off, and Charles (do Bronx) Oliveira faces Jim Miller.