All season long on The Ultimate Fighter, Georges St-Pierre dominated Josh Koscheck, bamboozling his fellow coach during the selection of teams (GSP slyly ended up with the two best fighters) and then coaching his guys to win after win as the weeks wore on. Koscheck talked and talked and talked, but Georges continually played him for a fool, making Josh the Wile E. Coyote to his Roadrunner.
St-Pierre (23-2) did more of the same Saturday night in the main event of UFC 124 before an animated hometown crowd of 23,000-plus at the Bell Centre in Montreal, peppering Koscheck with jabs, jabs and more jabs for five one-sided (and mostly one-eyed) rounds to score a heavy-handed unanimous decision and retain his welterweight championship with gusto.Beep, beep.
Koscheck (15-5) was battered and befuddled for the full 25 minutes, the steady diet of jabs transforming him into a cyclops - his right eye reddened and swollen practically shut - before the first round was over. There were overhand rights and left hooks, too. There were kicks and takedowns. But this fight was all about a jab that rendered Koscheck a beaten man long before the final horn and had the Montreal crowd deliriously singing "Aller! Aller! Aller!"
Nonetheless, St-Pierre apologized to the fans afterward. "I didn't reach my goal tonight," he told Joe Rogan in an interview in the cage. "My goal was to take him out."
That's no doubt true, but at times it appeared that St-Pierre was enjoying himself by staying on the outside and delivering blow after blow, making Koscheck eat every word from their testy time together on TUF. It was only after a doctor came in after the fourth round to check Koscheck's eye that GSP went for the kill. He came out in Round 5 with a vengeance, clearly wanting to win with a knockout, not a doctor's stoppage. He didn't get the KO, but he made his statement anyway.
You half expected Jason "Mayhem" Miller to walk out and hand someone $10,000 as if this were an episode of MTV's Bully Beatdown.
From the moment St-Pierre walked to the cage bathed in the kind of giddy Montreal welcome that would make Guy Lafleur blush, this was his night. He didn't allow himself to get caught up in the crowd noise, maintaining poise as well as distance, beating Koscheck to the punch every time, the challenger's looping right hand hitting nothing but air. The crowd's "Aller!" singing may have invoked World Cup soccer images for some, but this was a bullfight, and GSP was the graceful and skillful matador.
Koscheck acknowledged as much afterward, drawing his only applause of the night when he said, "St-Pierre's the man."
That would appear to be Jake Shields' problem now. UFC president Dana White promised the former Strikeforce welterweight champ the next shot at GSP after Shields won in his UFC debut. It was not the most spectacular victory, a split decision over Martin Kampmann in October, so some might not see Shields as much of a challenge for St-Pierre. But anyone with the jiu-jitsu skillset of Shields poses a threat.
That's for St-Pierre to think about tomorrow, or the next time he sets foot in a gym. For now, he can be satisfied to know that he beat down the bully and allowed a large number of Montrealers to go home happy. Maybe Dana White wasn't crazy when he called GSP the most famous athlete ever to come out of Canada. There are a few hockey players who'd have a thing or two to say about that. But not on this night.
• Thiago Alves kicked off the main card with his second win in two days. On Friday, his opponent was the scale - he had missed weight in two of his last four fights. But he came in on weight this time, and right from the start of his fight with John Howard it was clear his weight cut had not sapped him of energy. Both guys got in their shots over their 15 minutes in the cage, but Alves was crisper and more precise with his punches and especially his kicks. Howard was limping by the end of the first round and less mobile the rest of the way. And after Alves was announced as the winner by unanimous decision, Howard definitely did not go out dancing.
• Mac Danzig couldn't have picked a better time to counter a lunging Joe Stevenson left hook with a left hook of his own. The timing was perfect because Danzig's punch landed flush on the jaw and sent "Joe Daddy" to the canvas face first for a KO at 1:54 of the first round. The timing was perfect also because this meeting of The Ultimate Fighter reality show winners pitted two guys fighting for UFC survival, as Danzig (Season 6) came in having lost four of his last five bouts and Stevenson (Season 2) had dropped three of five. Afterward, interviewed in the cage, Danzig told Joe Rogan, "I'm here to stay." Indeed.
• Quite a night for the Miller family. Minutes after older brother Dan Miller won a split decision over Joe Doerkson, Jim Miller stepped in against Charles Oliveira, a 21-year-old who had looked like a star on the horizon in his two previous trips in the octagon. It took Miller less than 30 seconds to get a takedown, but Oliveira almost sunk in a choke, then a triangle, then a leg lock. But Miller countered with a knee bar, and Oliveira tapped out 1:59 into the fight. It was the Brazilian wunderkind's first loss and Miller won his sixth straight and stated his case for being the next challenger for the winner of the New Year's night lightweight title bout between Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard, the only two fighters to have beaten Miller.
• Dustin Hazelett looked like a skeleton at Friday's weigh-in, but he had some life in him even after Mark Bocek took him to the mat within the first 20 seconds. Hazelett tried to work a submission from the bottom, but the threat ended when Bocek passed guard to full mount, secured a triangle, and handed Hazelett only the second submission loss of his career. The end came at 2:33 of the first.
• There should have been NBA scouts on hand to watch 6-foot-7 Sean McCorkle step in against 6-11 Stefan Struve in the co-main event. Imagine the fines and suspensions, though, if David Stern ever caught a glimpse of the beating these guys put on each other. McCorkle, who had fractured Mark Hunt's elbow in his only previous UFC fight, got on top quickly and secured a kimura to put Struve in early jeopardy. But the combination of his increasingly heavy breathing and the Dutch fighter's steadfast patience turned the tide, as Struve reversed to full mount and pounded away until he was pulled off as the winner at 3:55.