Daron Cruickshank Predicts First-Round KO Win over Tom Santos at RIZIN 11

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Daron Cruickshank (20-10 MMA, 3-2 RFF) returns at RIZIN 11 on July 29 to take on Tom Santos (9-5 MMA, 0-0 RFF) in a lightweight match.

“The Detroit Superstar” returns to action after a devastating head-kick knockout of Shooto lightweight champion Koshi Matsumoto in May. Now, he draws Santos in a duel of devastating strikers; they have 19 knockouts between the two of them.

“I think he’s a decent fighter,” Cruickshank told MMASucka. “I don’t want to say anything bad about him, I’m not that type of guy. I’ve fought a lot tougher guys, all around the world. Some of the best strikers in the world. It’s just another fight for me. The most important thing is if I show up at 100 percent and my mind is right, I think I can beat anybody.”

Cruickshank is looking for his third straight victory. He’s beaten Matsumoto, Shinji Sasaki, Andy Souwer and Alexander Trevino since his UFC departure. He’ll look to cool down Santos, who is 6-1 in his last seven. The Brazilian’s run has been punctuated by two knockouts over Yui Chul Nam, one of those in seven seconds.

“I watched a few videos,” Cruickshank said of his opponent. “There’s not a whole lot out there on him. I put him in the same category as every Muay Thai guy out there: They wait, they’re slow. He’s not going to be able to handle my punch-kick combos and staying at distance.”

Cruickshank’s Time in Japan

Cruickshank has fought opponents such as Erik Koch, Yves Edwards, Paul Felder, Beneil Dariush and Anthony Njokuani in countries ranging from Brazil to Canada.

More recently, he’s added Japan to that list. Cruickshank has been with RIZIN since it was a baby, more or less, joining them for its first numbered event back in April 2016. The promotion had only previously held three events prior to that. Cruickshank will be making his sixth appearance with RIZIN.

He’s built a strong American persona in his time over in Japan, becoming known to walk out to songs like Rocky IV’s “Living in America” and Hulk Hogan’s theme “Real American.” (He wanted to add Team America’s “America Fuck Yeah” to the list but the song’s lyrics prevented that, sadly). On top of that, he’s sported facial hair ranging from the curly mustache to the full beard to most recently, a Chuck Liddell-inspired Fu Manchu.

“When I first signed with them, they more or less said, ‘We like gimmicks,’” Cruickshank said of his inspiration. “I’ve always been pretty patriotic. There, it pops more because they’re Asian and I’m from the States. You don’t see that as much over there.”

Cruickshank’s persona combined with his penchant for highlight reel finishes have endeared him to the Japanese crowd. He said the fans would show up at the hotel looking for pictures or autographs. Some have even come bearing gifts, like t-shirts. What’s the weirdest one the American has received?

“Probably a cup of noodles,” Cruickshank said with a laugh. He’s since expressed interest in the Cup Noodle Man joining him for his walkout.

What’s next for the Detroit Superstar?

He said if all goes well with his bout with Santos, he’d like to end 2018 with two more head-kick knockouts in Japan. Beyond 2018, Cruickshank’s future is uncertain. He said his contract with RIZIN is set to expire at the end of the year. While he hopes the promotion will re-sign him, he said he’ll fight for whoever offers him the best deal.

“I’ve been doing this sport for a long time. In my eyes, I’ve only really concentrated on entertaining the crowd and putting on great fights,” Cruickshank said. “But I want to get paid for doing that and sacrificing everything. RIZIN pays me pretty well. My contract will be up this year sometime with them. Hopefully they like what I’ve been doing. Whoever wants to pay me the most is where I want to go. Show me the money.”

Until then, Cruickshank said he’ll keep being exciting for the fans. He hopes that won’t change with the Santos bout. Having 11 of his 20 wins come via first-round stoppage, Cruickshank is predicting he knocks Santos out in the first round.

“I think he is the type of guy that waits and he likes to throw when you’re inside the pocket,” he said. “I don’t think he’ll be able to handle my outside game. He’ll get frustrated, and when he rushes in, I’ll be able to capitalize.”

RIZIN 11 will be available to stream on the FITE TV app.

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Michael is a big MMA fan who enjoys interviewing the sport's athletes, writing about the sport, and just discussing it. He earned his Master's in Journalism at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and his B.A. in Journalism at Stony Brook University. He also enjoys hockey, football and baseball. Feel free to hit him up if you want to discuss MMA, or any other sport!

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