Does Matt Hughes still have it in him to beat Koscheck?


Josh Koscheck finally has what the welterweight squad of the American Kickboxing Academy has wanted for a couple of years now, a date to fight former UFC welterweight champ and Hall of Famer Matt Hughes.

At various points over the past couple of year all of AKA’s trifecta of top tier welterweights; Koscheck, Jon Fitch and Mike Swick have all called out Hughes but the Hillsboro, Illions resident had no interest in fighting and of the up-and-comers. Instead Hughes seemed to be on a retirement tour of sorts, choosing to busy himself with defeating veterans Matt Serra, Renzo Gracie and Ricardo Almeida before losing to BJ Penn.

The Penn fight seemed to motivate Hughes to once again prove himself against a top ten opponent. It took an injury to Diego Sanchez, Hughes’ originally scheduled opponent and Koscheck nemesis for the blonde-afro’d fighter to finally get his crack at Hughes. Koscheck, looking to make a big splash in his first fight back since his loss to welterweight kingpin Georges St. Pierre in December, had reportedly asked the UFC for the biggest name available in either the welterweight or middleweight divisions. Names such as Wanderlei Silva, Rich Franklin and Chris Leben were tossed out. But when Sanchez went down with a broken hand, the allure of a big-name fight with Hughes was almost too perfect for Kos.

While Hughes has the definitive edge in experience, pundits have been wondering if Hughes is finally over the hill and whether his skills have eroded over time. His decision win over Matt Serra was unimpressive to some, and his victories over Gracie and Almeida proved only that he wasn’t fighting men who were on his level. His quick KO loss to Penn made some wonder aloud if he even could hang with the top names of the division he once stood atop. The Sanchez fight was to answer these questions. But now Hughes faces arguably an even tougher challenge. A fighter in Hughes’ own mold, top of the food chain wrestling skills rounded out by an underrated striking game. Hughes may very well be preparing for a fighter just like he was in his prime.

Hughes seems to realize this, and is digging into his past to help prepare him. He is working with Pat Miletich for the first time in six years and has even reached out to his former opponent Penn to shore up his skills. Hughes made the trip out to Hawaii in February to help Penn with his wrestling in preparation for “The Prodigy’s” fight with Jon Fitch. Penn is now returning the favour, tightening up Hughes’ striking.

This fight could be a crossroads for the career of Hughes. A win would vault the former champ back into title contention. A loss could signal the end of his days as a top tier competitor and could even generate talk about whether he should continue his career. Both fighters are coming off long layoffs, and Koscheck has the disadvantage of a three week camp. While Hughes maintains he still has the competitive fire burning within him, whether he has the skill necessary to defeat one of the top names in the division who seems to be a modern-day version of Hughes in his prime remains to be seen. He’ll need everything in his arsenal and maybe a healthy dose of good ol’ vitamin luck. But as we saw with Tito Ortiz earlier in the year, everyone loves a comeback.

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