Koscheck earns title shot, Daley shown door

MONTREAL – There was irony in Josh Koscheck’s UFC 113 win over Paul Daley on Saturday night at the Bell Centre, one that set up Koscheck for a title shot and cost Daley his job.

Koscheck was booed by the crowd of 17,647 fans, who wanted to see a grudge match end with wild punches and a knockout. Instead, they got what was almost a duplicate of the March 27 fight in Newark, N.J., where welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre won a decision over England’s Dan Hardy by using an effective but not particularly exciting style of ground control.

Josh Koscheck earned a title shot by holding down Paul Daley for a 30-27 decision at UFC 113.
(Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

Like St. Pierre against Hardy, Koscheck (17-4) took Daley (23-9-2), perhaps the most explosive welterweight striker, down to the ground and controlled him for most of three straight rounds, winning a straight 30-27 decision. The win was by far the biggest of Koscheck’s career.

The fight was to not only determine who would coach against St. Pierre on the next season of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality show, which starts filming in a few weeks, but also who would get the next crack at St. Pierre’s title in December.

The irony was that the longer the fight went, the more the pro-Daley crowd was upset, even though it was held before a Canadian fan base and with Koscheck using the style that has led to St. Pierre becoming one of the country’s most popular athletes.

The coincidence wasn’t lost on Koscheck.

“I executed the game plan to a T,” said Koscheck, who had told people he would going to stand with Daley only to shoot and take him down at the first opportunity. “I was doing my coaches’ game plan: that was to be a wrestler and win the match with wrestling.”

Even more frustrated than the crowd, though, was Daley. Koscheck admitted trash talking in Daley’s ear late in the fight, but he wouldn’t divulge the details. Whatever it was, it made the British fighter even more furious.

After the fight was over, Daley started jawing back and then hit Koscheck with a postfight sucker punch, the likes of which haven’t been seen in the UFC cage in recent memory.

Koscheck said that Daley, unable to get off the bottom position, also tried gouging his eyes late in the fight.

The result was that Daley (23-9-2) became only the second person fired by UFC president Dana White for poor sportsmanship inside the cage. In 2007, Renato “Babalu” Sobral was cut after a win over David Heath because he wouldn’t release a choke hold after Heath had passed out.

“He’s done,” White said of Daley. “He will never be back. I don’t care if he goes all over the world, goes on a winning streak, becomes the best 170-pound fighter in the world or even the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, he’s never fighting in the UFC again.”

Referee Dan Miragliotta had to grab Daley and hold him against the cage because he still wanted to go after Koscheck. White then entered the cage and started yelling at Daley. White said he fired Daley for the sucker punch, but he was clearly even more annoyed when he asked Daley why he did it. White felt Daley insulted his intelligence with his answer.

“He said he didn’t know the fight was over,” said White. The fight’s various controversies started in the first round. After Koscheck controlled Daley on the ground for several minutes, Daley finally got to his feet and went for a kick to Koscheck when he was down, which is illegal.

Well, if the kick landed it would have been illegal. Koscheck grabbed his left eye writhing in pain like he had been injured by the blow, although replays showed that it was hard to see exactly what landed.

“I think it was a knee in the eye,” said Koscheck, who had a cut next to the eye. “I don’t know if it was a knee or a punch [which would have been legal].”

The crowd, believing Koscheck may have played up the injury for more than it was worth, resulting in a timeout and respite, started chanting obscenities after the replay was shown in the arena. The chants got louder and more obscene as the fight went on.

During the second round, after Koscheck scored his first takedown, he kept Daley grounded the entire round. Having clearly won the first two rounds, early in the third round Koscheck danced backward and put the fight into almost a stall defense as Daley came forward before shooting in and taking him to the ground. Koscheck kept Daley there, staying just busy enough with punches to prevent a standup.

The win means Koscheck’s career has come full circle.

Five years ago, a few weeks into the first season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” Koscheck sprayed a hose on Chris Leben, which led to a Leben meltdown. Their match a week later drew 2.5 million viewers, putting the show – and the UFC itself – on the pop-culture map. The Koscheck-Leben match held the record for the highest-rated episode in the history of the show until Kimbo Slice showed up in 2009.

The incident established Koscheck as the company’s biggest villain, a role he didn’t particularly want. But when it was thrust on him, it’s a role he hasn’t exactly run away from.

After Saturday’s fight was over, Koscheck, booed as much as any UFC fighter in recent years with the exception of heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar, told the crowd that the Pittsburgh Penguins would be beating the Montreal Canadiens in their NHL playoff series and that Montreal would lose twice since he was going to beat St. Pierre.

Koscheck, who grew up in Pennsylvania and was the 2001 NCAA Division I wrestling champion at Edinboro College, going 43-0-1, said the interview was done in response for the crowd’s reaction to him. He said he was not aware at the time that the Penguins had won the game that ended earlier that evening. He joked that he didn’t want the title fight in Montreal, but said he wanted it in Pittsburgh.

St. Pierre and Koscheck have fought once before, on Aug. 25, 2007, in Las Vegas, between St. Pierre’s two championship reigns.

St Pierre won by unanimous decision, but Koscheck won the first round, making him the last fighter to win a round against the current champion.

“I think I underestimated Georges’ wrestling,” said Koscheck about the first fight. “This time, I’m going to be prepared when it comes to wrestling. I’ll be bringing in Olympic wrestlers to camp. I’ll be ready this time.”

Dave Meltzer covers mixed martial arts for Yahoo! Sports. Send Dave a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Sunday, May 9, 2010