This Saturday night (May 10, 2014) Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) lightweights Erik Koch and Daron Cruickshank will go to war on the main card of UFC Fight Night 40, airing live at 10 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1 from U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Koch recently made a return to 155 pounds following two straight losses against top featherweights Ricardo Lamas and Dustin Poirier. The move initially paid off, as he finished Rafaello Oliveira with a first round technical knockout at UFC 170. "New Breed" is looking to build a win streak in one of the toughest divisions in all of mixed martial arts (MMA).
Cruickshank has had a similar bout with inconsistency as of late, going 2-2 in his last four UFC bouts. He won his last fight with an impressive finish of Mike Rio at UFC on FOX 10. Koch promises to be a decent step up in competition for "The Detroit Superstar," so he's going to have to put on the performance of a lifetime.
Given the striking skills of both fighters, we could be in for war. Let's take a look at the keys to victory for Koch vs. Cruickshank:
Record: 14-3 overall, 3-2 UFC
Key Wins: Rafaello Oliveira (UFC 170), Jonathan Brookins (UFC Fight Night 25 Assuncao (UFC 128)
Key Losses: Dustin Poirier (UFC 164), Ricardo Lamas (UFC on FOX 6), Chad Mendes (WEC 47)
Record: 14-4 overall, 4-2 UFC
Key Wins: Mike Rio (UFC on FOX 10), Yves Edwards (UFC on FOX 8)
Key Losses: Adriano Martins (UFC Fight Night 32), John Makdessi (UFC 158), Luis Palomino (G-Force Fights - Bad Blood 5)
This is a rarely seen bout between two Taekwondo black belts. Koch relied mainly on his grappling to secure several wins early on in his career, but he's picked up two of his three UFC victories with strikes.
His best bet may be a return to his mat skills, as Cruickshank has tapped out in two of four total losses. Given "The Detroit Superstar's" background as an NCAA Division III wrestler, he may not be easy to get to the ground. If Koch can, however, he could open up a window for one of his fight-ending chokes.
"New Breed" won't shy away fro, any striking exchanges, but with Cruickshank winning eight of 14 bouts by knockout, grappling with him is the clearest path to victory.
Across the cage, Cruickshank will be looking to score a highlight reel finish. His powerful kicks and punches are his favorite skillset, as he's only submitted one opponent. Standing at 5'8", Cruickshank actually has a 2" reach advantage on the 5'10" Koch.
While that may not be the deciding factor, it should help Cruickshank get inside to utilize his power. Koch will undoubtedly be one of his toughest tests yet, but that means he also presents an opportunity to make a big statement.
Avoiding takedowns and dictating the pace on the feet is going to be Cruickshank's most intelligent way to capitalize upon it.
"New Breed" is out to prove he can become a contender at his former home of lightweight. Will Daron Cruickshank's thunderous striking put an end to those plans?