Daron Cruickshank is in the process of preparing for one of the most important bouts of his career.
“The Detroit Superstar” will take on fellow UFC veteran Diego Brandao at RIZIN 13 in what will be a must-watch contest. Brandao, like Cruickshank, has fought some of the top martial artists in the world. The Brazilian has squared off with the likes of Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier and Brian Ortega. A win over Brandao would be Cruickshank’s fourth in a row, and he hopes it’ll be his fourth consecutive finish, too.
Cruickshank is set to become a free agent sometime in December. He feels a knockout over Brandao would give him more pull when renegotiating a deal with RIZIN or being offered more money to fight elsewhere.
“That’s my plan,” Cruickshank told MMASucka. “It gives me a lot of leeway as far as what I can ask for and whether I can renegotiate with RIZIN or see what else is out there. RIZIN has taken really good care of me so I’ll see what they have to offer. I like fighting for the Japanese people but it’s a long trip that’s hard on my body. The juice has to be worth the squeeze.”
He said his ideal suitor would be a promotion where he’d get a lot of fights. And at 33 years old, that’s more important than ever to Cruickshank.
“I’m the type of guy who likes to fight four to five times a year and I’ve done that consistently,” he said. “If I’m not fighting, I’m not making money. I feel like I’m getting a lot better in my old age. I feel like a nice, sweet wine.”
Cruickshank says his latest successes have been a combination of experience and his body holding up.
“I’m really becoming my own,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot throughout the years and my body’s stuck together so far with all the punishment I’ve put it through. The fans are going to see the best Daron Cruickshank so far.”
That was evident in his recent victories over Koshi Matsuomoto and Tom Santos. Cruickshank ended Matsumoto’s night with a left head-kick KO at RIZIN 10. He then dismantled Santos at RIZIN 11 with spinning kicks, soccer kicks, hard punches, stomps and even a rolling thunder. He landed a pair of vicious elbows from full mount to get Santos to tap out in the final minute of their contest.
Cruickshank vs. Brandao
His next contest is another Brazilian in Brandao. Cruickshank feels Brandao will try to blitz him with an overhand for a knockout, but will attempt to take him to the ground and submit him when that doesn’t work. He added that his own biggest asset is his eight-inch reach advantage over Brandao.
“I have the reach advantage and that’s not something I have a lot in my fights,” Cruickshank said. “I’m taller so I think I’ll be able play my outside game, use my reach advantage and knock him out. His biggest problem is he gets emotional on his feet, he gets frustrated when he can’t close the distance on people and that’s what I’m going to do to him. He’ll eat everything I throw at him. I feel I’m a much better striker than him and that’s where the fight starts.”
Cruickshank also said he’s looking forward to having the crowd on his side.
“It’s nice because I have a decent fan base over [in Japan] and because I’m not fighting against another Japanese guy, I feel the love even more,” he said. “They don’t have to root against me because I’m not fighting the hometown guy.”
RIZIN 13 goes down at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan on Sunday morning, September 30. The United States broadcast will be available on FITE.