UFC 86 ‘Jackson vs. Griffin’ Preview and Predictions Part 1

josh-koscheck

Josh Koscheck vs. Chris Lytle

It was not long ago when Josh Koscheck was maligned for his boring fights and one-dimensional style. Known primarily for his “lay and pray” tactics, Koscheck was not a well-rounded fighter. But, what a difference a few fights make! Ever since his dominant victory over highly regarded Diego Sanchez, Kos has displayed his emerging array of skills.

The rigorous training dramatically improved Koscheck’s skills. No longer does he rely primarily on his wrestling. He can stand and trade if he feels comfortable. His striking was clearly better against Diego Sanchez and Dustin Hazlett. It even seemed better in his loss to GSP. If Kos chooses not to strike, he can utilize his decorated collegiate wrestling pedigree to take the fight to the ground. Once there, he has developed an adept submission base, so opponents must be wary of more than just his ground n’ pound.

Kos’s fight against Chris Lytle will be an important one. A win would once again put him amongst the top title contenders (w/ a victory his UFC record would improve to 9-2). Lytle is a seasoned veteran who has fought many of MMA’s best. However, he has never reached the upper echelon of elite fighters, but always proves to be a difficult challenge. His strength is his striking, where he accumulated a 13-1-1 record as a professional boxer. While Kos’ striking has looked crisp in his last several fights, it will be critical for him not to become over confident. Lytle has knockout power, which he displayed in brutal fashion, during his most recent, 33-second KO over Kyle Bradley at UFC 81. 

It will be necessary for Kos to stay disciplined. No matter how much he has fallen in love with his striking, Kos should not oblige Lytle and avoid turning the bout into a war. He doesn’t want Lytle to get inside, where he can land his short, powerful punches. Strategy wise, Kos must establish his jab early on, so he can keep Lytle at a distance. Kos will patiently wait for his opportunity to shoot and then take the fight to the ground. With Kos on top, he should be able to control Lytle, just as Matt Hughes was able to do.

Lytle should be used as a stepping-stone for Koscheck. In terms of pure athleticism, Kos has very few rivals in all of the sport. He owns all the tools to become a great fighter. He needs this win in order to test his newly developed skills against the world’s best.
 
Prediction: Josh Koscheck via decision

Joe Stevenson vs. Gleison Tibau

Gleison Tibau is a beast of a 155-pounder. In fact, he is a beast of a man in general. From a style standpoint, the fight should be intriguing. Both Stevenson and Tibau have solid wrestling skills, good jiu-jitsu moves and terrific strength. They are compact fighters. Victory will come down to whether or not Big Daddy Stevenson can dictate where the fight goes. If he is able to fight wherever he ends up feeling comfortable, then he should be able to eek out the win. But, if Tibau proves to be a more complete wrestler and puts Stevenson on his back, he will no doubt secure a submission or land some solid ground n’ pound.

Stevenson will be looking to bounce back from his tough loss to BJ Penn. If he wants to remain relevant in the division, he’ll need to prove that he has continued to improve and that his learning curve hasn’t reached a plateau. Stevenson does a lot of things well, but doesn’t have one outstanding skill. Tibau is a similar fighter, having the capabilities to strike, but the skills to excel on the ground. Yet, he hasn’t shown the explosiveness of a great fighter. In his last fight, he was overwhelmed in all facets by Tyson Griffin.
           
In order to start climbing the title ladder once more, it is essential for Stevenson to win this fight. Fans will observe two evenly matched fighters and find out which one is better.
 
Prediction: Joe Stevenson via Decision