Big Fight Breakdown

Johny Hendricks vs. Josh Koscheck UFC on Fox 3: May 5, East Rutherford, NJ

When mat men Johny Hendricks (12-1) and Josh Koscheck (17-5) face each other at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey, on May 5, they will represent the greatest set of collegiate wrestling credentials to ever compete against each other in Octagon history. Between the two grapplers, Koscheck (4th, 2nd, 1st, 3rd) and Hendricks (4th, 1st, 1st, 2nd) have earned three NCAA Championships and eight All-American Honors. However, with elbows, fists, and shins mixed into the equation, this isn’t just a wrestling match, and the big question is, how will their similar backgrounds match up in the cage?

WRESTING WIZARDRY

With wrestling credentials that would make Hulk Hogan leg-drop himself to death, Hendricks and Koscheck are two of the best in the biz.

Hendricks made a career at Oklahoma State University with one of the most tenacious single-leg takedowns in the sport. Nothing fancy, just a relentless attack without technical errors—getting in on a leg meant that he would score a takedown. His technical tenacity has also made its way to the Octagon, with Hendricks averaging 5.07 takedowns per 15 minutes. Hendrick’s wrestling antagonism, however, also leaves him open to being taken down, as evidenced in his fights with Rick Story (twice), Mike Pierce (once), and Charlie Brenneman (twice), who all happen to be former collegiate wrestlers.

Koscheck wreaked havoc on the mats at Edinboro University with a unique blend of athleticism and superior positioning. He has parlayed those skills in the cage by dominating the grappling game in the Octagon (Georges St-Pierre being the exception). Koscheck’s takedown defense is at 62%, but if you throw out the six takedowns secured by GSP in their two fights, the number shoots up into the 90%-range. Unless you are a Canadian freak of nature, Kos is a very hard man to take down.

GROUND GAME

Forget the offensive Brazilian Jui-Jitsu in this fight—there’s a better chance of a Bruce Buffer open bar than an armbar. The odds of either fighter pulling guard are slim to none…and slim was just crane-kicked out of the dojo by Steven Seagal.

Kos and Hendricks have dogged ground-n-pound games when deployed, however, both fighters also have demonstrated their ability to win rounds by using superior position to control the top game—sans the infliction of tremendous damage. The application of BJJ will be utilized once a takedown occurs and the downed fighter is forced to create space and wall-walk back to his feet. Neither fighter will want to give up his back for fear of the wrestler’s best friend—the rear naked choke.

STANDING SOIRÉE

Koscheck and Hendricks may not be doctors of The Sweet Science, but they’ve experimented enough to know how to pop a jab and throw a hook.

Hendricks is a southpaw who throws his left hand with bad intentions—just ask Jon Fitch if he remembers being knocked out in 12 seconds at UFC 141. But that’s not the only example of Hendricks’ power—he felled Amir Sadollah in 29 seconds, crushed TJ Waldburger in 95 seconds, and pounded out Charlie Brenneman 40 seconds into the second round. His 53% striking accuracy means that he is connecting, and that’s an oft-painful experience for opponents. Hendricks may not look body-builder chiseled, but he is freakishly strong—the rugged Cowboy who collapses your lung with a friendly slap on the back.

Koscheck has no lack of power, either. The orthodox fighter throws his looping left and right hooks with controlled chaos. Many times, they seemingly come from a mile away, but if he connects, it’s lights out. He put antiques Matt Hughes and Frank Trigg to sleep, and his highlight-reel KO of Yoshiyuki Yoshida is still one of the best in UFC history. However, his striking accuracy is at 37%, and that means he needs to utilize his four-inch reach advantage and superior athleticism if he wants to stymie a mobile Hendricks.

INTRIGUING INTANGIBLES

Behind Hendricks’ Rasputin-like beard is a chin that’s not afraid to be punched. Hendricks has eaten plenty of good shots since he joined the MMA ranks in 2007. In 13 career fights—10 under the Zuffa banner—Hendricks has only tasted defeat once, which was at the hands of Rick Story in 2010. Beyond that, Hendricks is a gamer. He thrives in big fights because of his great belief in himself and his love of competing on the biggest stage.

Under Koscheck’s fleeced, bleached locks is a hard head…and an even harder mindset. When GSP collapsed Koscheck’s face in the first round of their 2010 fight, he showed no quit and battled the champion for four more rounds. Kos is a tough SOB, and he has always been a scrapper with a chip on his shoulders, even during his days at Edinboro when he battled a badly injured neck to finish out his senior season. While his cocky attitude rubs many fans the wrong way, it’s his unwavering confidence that has allowed him to succeed on the wrestling mats and in the cage.

FIGHT! Staff Picks

Eddie Kleid, Co-President: Hendricks

Ladd Dunwoody, EIC: Koscheck

Jim Casey, Managing Editor: Hendricks

Paul Thatcher, Photographer: Hendricks

TR Foley, Writer: Hendricks

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