Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) lightweights Erik Koch and Daron Cruickshank threw down on the main card of UFC Fight Night 40 last night (Sat., May 10, 2014) from U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Cruickshank was last seen finishing Mike Rio with an emphatic headkick at UFC on FOX 10. In Koch, Cruickshank faced a fellow Taekwondo black belt who was hungry to prove his once-considerable hype was justified.
After stagnating at his former home of featherweight, Koch returned to 155 pounds and picked up an immediate win by finishing Rafaello Oliveira at UFC 170 in February.
With seven mixed martial arts (MMA) knockouts heading into Cincinnati, "The Detroit Superstar" was well known for his dangerous kicking game, but Koch brought a big edge on the ground. Ultimately, however, that didn't matter much, as Cruickshank's explosive striking power put an end to Koch's planned rise up the rankings.
Cruickshank kicked off the fight with a right hand. Koch rushed in, but was met with some sharp strikes from Cruickshank. "New Breed" fought back with a head kick as he maintained Octagon control. Cruickshank snapped a counter and ate an inside leg kick, responding with a solid combo ending with a body kick.
Then, it was all over in a flash.
Cruickshank unleashed a kick that didn't do much, but followed with a vicious left high kick that caught Koch flush. "The Detroit Superstar" swarmed on the ground with punches and elbows, earning the stoppage from the referee.
Cruickshank scored his biggest-ever win with another impressive knockout as the decided underdog. He's been scoring huge finishes in one of the toughest divisions in all of MMA and undoubtedly deserves a step up in competition.
A fight against lower-level Top 15-ranked lightweights Jorge Masvidal or Joe Lauzon would be an excellent gauge of how ready Cruickshank is to take on the best 155-pound fighters on the planet.
The setback is an extremely deflating one for Koch. After being scheduled to challenge for the UFC featherweight title in 2012, "New Breed" was injured and experienced a subsequent downfall at 145 pounds.
He had momentum after defeating Oliveira in his lightweight return, but he appeared slightly over-aggressive against Cruickshank. His pace was good, yet he did precious little with the pressure applied. He's going to experience a fall down the pecking order in a talented division, and it's going to take several quality wins to get back to true relevancy.
Thankfully for him, he has the time to right the wrongs of recent downfalls and turn his career around, but it's clear he has some holes to close before he can realize his sizeable potential.
Daron Cruickshank scored his second straight headkick finish, this time over a tough opponent in Erik Koch. With his skills no longer a secret, will "The Detroit Superstar" find himself booked in a huge fight next?