Daron Cruickshank is a former Div. III wrestler with a black belt in Taekwondo. Saturday night, he only needed to showcase one of those skills to defeat Erik Koch at UFC Fight Night 40.
Cruickshank landed a big head kick and followed it up with a series of punches, finishing Koch in the first round.
With the win, Cruickshank (15-4) improved to 2-0 in 2014 and 5-2 overall since joining the UFC in 2012. He has finished three of his foes, delivering head kick knockouts against Mike Rio and Henry Martinez.
Asked if he felt like he needed to prove his spot in the division, the “Detroit Superstar” was honest, saying, “100-percent. I know I belong, but I feel I proved I belong here (with this win).”
After a submission loss in 2013 to Adriano Martins in Brazil, returning to U.S. soil has been good for Cruickshank. He finished Rio in the second round with just seconds left in Chicago this past January.
“This was a great fight for me,” he said. “I showed up. When I do that, I can beat anybody.”
While watching his highlights, Cruickshank remarked, “lights out. Alright.” He added that when an opponent is hurt, “you gotta follow it up and got for the kill.”
The loss was the third in Koch’s (14-4) last four fights, as he fell to Dustin Poirier and Ricardo Lamas last year. He is 3-3 in six UFC fights after winning 11 of his first 12 pro bouts before signing with the promotion.
“I’m sorry guys I give it to Cruickshank he did a great job,” Koch posted on Twitter, moments following the loss. “I’ll be back just pride is hurt a little.”
Koch did defeat Rafaello Oliveira in February with a first round finish in his return to the lightweight division.