Thursday, April 5, 2007

TUF’s Proven Prospects Sanchez and Koscheck Do It Again Saturday for Houston Crowd

By Brian Knapp

What started as a friendship between Diego Sanchez and Josh Koscheck evolved into one of MMA’s fiercest feuds. Having traded public barbs and insults for months, the two welterweight contenders square off Saturday at UFC 69 “Shootout” in Houston, Texas, where their war of words is likely to escalate into flurries of punches, kicks, knees and elbows. Animosity flows from both sides. “We dislike each other a lot,” Koscheck says. “We hate each other.”

Training partners for roughly 12 weeks on Spike TV’s “The Ultimate Fighter” reality series in its inaugural 2005 season, Sanchez and Koscheck met in the middleweight semifinals. Sanchez won a split decision, and from there, friendship was off the table. “We were friends,” Sanchez says. “After the fight, he had a lot of jealousy for me. When we see each other now, he doesn’t even want to look me in the eye.”

Their rivalry, which has spilled into public arenas, is a hot topic among fight fans. Sanchez and Koscheck have been involved in at least two documented confrontations – one at a San Diego bar, another at the Palms Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Adding to the heat between the two is the now infamous message posted by Sanchez on Koscheck’s Myspace page in February, which read:

“Happy Valentines Day human blanket, I hope you pack some balls in your suitcase when you come to H Town, Please don’t try to dry hump me like all your other boring ass fights. I’m ready right now! I asked Dana for you! P.S. You ain’t got hands – Diego Sanchez.”

There is no love loss between them. “He totally disrespected me,” Koscheck says. “I’m going to take it out on him April 7.”

Sanchez – who has worked on his boxing skills with Oscar de la Hoya, the first boxer in history to win titles in six different weight classes – has publicly questioned Koscheck’s ability to take a punch and willingness to absorb punishment. “I believe Josh Koscheck doesn’t like to get hit in the face,” Sanchez says. “When he gets hit, he likes to run away. Maybe he’s changed.”

Koscheck welcomed the challenge during a media conference call Tuesday. “I’ve got a good chin,” Koscheck says. “I’m not going to be afraid to get hit. I’ve been hit hard before, and it probably won’t be the last time.”

The dynamic welterweights fought as relative unknowns on season one of “The Ultimate Fighter,” a competition Sanchez ultimately won. Their three-round battle was one of the season’s most competitive bouts. Koscheck displayed superior wrestling ability, as he scored numerous takedowns, and Sanchez proved dangerous on his feet, in the clinch and on the ground.

The fight’s outcome appeared in question as it entered the third round. Sanchez closed strong, as he spent the last 51 seconds of the match in top position, punishing Koscheck’s body with a series of elbows and punches.

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