Ben Fowlkes
Thursday May 6th, 2010

Listening to everything Paul Daley has said about Josh Koscheck in the run-up to their welterweight clash at UFC 113 this weekend, I keep expecting him to run out of insults and start offering up compliments by accident.

One minute he compares Koscheck to a Jim Henson puppet, the next he's openly questioning the man's sexual preference. Maybe we should just count ourselves lucky that he hasn't tried to combine the two yet. Our childhood memories of "Fraggle Rock" might never be the same.

This stuff is straight from the fight hype handbook. Chapter one: Seize on some aspect of your opponent's appearance and hammer it relentlessly. Chapter two: What, that didn't work? Fine, just call him gay.

It's hard to figure out whether this schoolyard stuff really works when it comes to getting under a pro fighter's skin, especially when the fighter in question is Koscheck. If he can get used to the abuse he takes from fans, including the shower of boos that's become his default entrance music, a few verbal barbs from Daley probably won't make him crumble in the Octagon.

Daley's best hope is that he can make Koscheck a little too eager to hurt him, but it's not as if this is the first time anyone's tried that approach, as Koscheck pointed out when I spoke with him recently.

"I've had people talk trash before," Koscheck said. "At the end of the day he's got to step in there and perform. He's going to look like a real d--- if he goes in there and gets his a-- kicked after talking all that s--."

In case you're wondering whether his choice of words indicates that Koscheck is already flustered, don't. That level of orneriness is more or less his default setting.

One thing that puts Koscheck at ease heading into this bout is the knowledge that he'll likely get to decide where the fight takes place. Unless Daley has made enormous improvements to his takedown defense and ground game in the last couple of years, it shouldn't be too difficult for Koscheck to put him on his back and keep him there.

Daley knows this. That's why he's doing everything in his power to make Koscheck want to stand up and knock him out. If he can't cancel out Koscheck's grappling abilities, he might as well see if he can't convince Koscheck to cancel them out for him.

Will it work? Only if Koscheck's ego overpowers his good sense, which seems unlikely, but not entirely out of the question.

As much as he claims not to care what fans think of him, he wouldn't be human if there wasn't a part of him that wanted to silence Daley and his critics by beating the Brit at his own game. Somewhere in his mind, surely he imagines himself felling Daley with that one perfect right hand that stretches him out on the canvas. A finish that will live on in highlight reels for decades to come.

As long as we're fantasizing, why not add a scene where the crowd carries him out of the arena and through the streets of Montreal on their shoulders, chanting his name?

As good as that would feel, that's hubris talking. On the list of tiny but important distinctions that separate the champion from the lifelong contender, the ability to ignore those glory-seeking voices in your own head is surely near the top.

Just ask Georges St. Pierre. While you're at it, ask Dan Hardy too. He found out firsthand what happens when you can't convince a superior wrestler to leave the best part of his game in the locker room.

As successful as Daley's been in winning the battle for the headlines, it's Koscheck who's likely to be the story on Sunday morning. The fans may not want to see him execute a smart game plan any more than Daley does, and there's a good chance that, even in victory, he could exit the arena to the same chorus of boos that he typically enters to.

That's fine. At least he'd still be leaving a winner. He'd also let all the other UFC welterweights know that you'd better learn how to stop Koscheck's takedowns, since you sure can't talk him out of using them.

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