MMA Odds Breakdown: Josh Koscheck vs. Johny Hendricks

Before Nate Diaz and Jim Miller fight for a shot at the UFC lightweight title Saturday night, a highly intriguing bout between welterweight contenders Josh Koscheck and  Johny Hendricks is set to take place in the co-main event of UFC on FOX 3. The main card action is scheduled to get underway at 8 p.m. (ET). Hendricks (12-1) will be making his FOX debut on the heels of an impressive 12-second knockout of Koscheck’s former training partner Jon Fitch at last December’s UFC 141 event. Koscheck (19-5) is coming off a controversial split decision over Mike Pierce at UFC 143 in Feburary, when he looked sluggish and uncoordinated. Hendricks looks to take one more step towards a shot at UFC 170-pound champion Georges St-Pierre – who Koscheck has already lost twice to – while “Kos” sees this as a chance for revenge. This fight is far from easy to predict, as both fighters are fairly evenly matched in almost every single area. While both are great wrestlers, Koscheck should have the advantage in terms of takedowns. As good as Hendricks’ NCAA wrestling credentials are, he has been outwrestled by far inferior wrestlers to Koscheck thus far into his MMA career. I’d be surprised if “Kos” wasn’t able to secure a couple takedowns in this fight. Holding down Hendricks is a different story, however, as he’s very good at creating scrambles and escaping back to his feet. I give a moderate striking edge to Hendricks, who has shown better fundamentals and technique. While UFC color commentator Joe Rogan will lead you to believe Koscheck looks like a pro boxer in the cage, this is far from accurate. Koscheck has limited footwork and badly telegraphs his strikes. In addition, he doesn’t keep his elbows close to his sides to protect from body blows, nor does he tuck his chin to avoid head shots. Hendricks isn’t an elite striker himself, but his defense is sounder and he sets up his strikes better. That said, there are still quite a few unknowns going into this fight. I can’t help but feel Hendricks is now overrated. Prior to the bout with Fitch, MMA fans had frequently discussed how Hendricks hadn’t developed into the fighter they had hoped. Now, just one punch later, some are pegging him as “The GSP Killer.” The problem is, as impressive as Hendricks’ swift KO of the former long-time No. 2 welterweight was, it really didn’t tell us much. As for Koscheck, since his title effort versus St-Pierre 17 months ago, he has not looked anything like the fighter who earned that shot. In his fights against Pierce and Matt Hughes, he looked extremely slow and tentative. One of his best traits has always been his explosive punches and powerful double-leg takedowns, but both seem to be a thing of the past. In addition, Koscheck had a falling out with his longtime gym American Kickboxing Academy and has since put together his own camp. Whether that is a help or hindrance remains to be seen. On top of that, he appeared drained and mentally distracted at Friday’s weigh-ins while Hendricks looked healthy and determined. Given that Koscheck seems to be a shell of his former self, I have to favor Hendricks, who seems to get a little better every fight. The oddsmakers and bettors agree, with the line moving to -137 in favor of Hendricks compared to +107 for Koscheck after opening at even odds. Hendricks should be able to keep the fight upright for the majority of the time and land the cleaner, harder punches. Koscheck has never shown a particularly good chin, which very well could fail him here. My guess is Hendricks either lands a big punch to score a TKO at some point or gets the better of a majority decision. Whether or not the the judges award Koscheck another controversial decision is another story. I wouldn’t go big on it, but a wager on Hendricks at that price is a solid play.

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