When Daron Cruickshank hops into the ring at Bellator 237, which is co-promoting with RIZIN FF, it will mark a milestone for him: his first fight as a father.
Cruickshank and his wife, Malky, recently welcomed their daughter, Nova Faye Cruickshank, into the world. Cruickshank gave his wife props for taking care of their newborn, allowing him to fully prepare for his bout with Goiti Yamauchi (24-4 MMA, 10-3 Bellator) at Bellator Japan on Dec. 28. For the first time, Cruickshank (21-12, 1 NC MMA, 5-4 RIZIN) has an extra motivation.
“I’m a provider,” Cruickshank told MMASucka. “And now I’m a provider of another human being, so I’m a little bit more hungry to win.”
Daron Cruickshank vs. Goiti Yamauchi
Cruickshank vs. Yamauchi is as striker vs. grappler as it gets, stylistically. Yamauchi is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ace, having submitted his opponent in 19 of his victories. He has never been finished, either. “The Detroit Superstar,” on the other hand, has a penchant for highlight reel kick knockouts. Of his 22 wins, 14 have come via T/KO. He has a pair of submission wins to his name, as well.
“Obviously, I feel more comfortable on my feet, but I’m no stranger to the ground,” he said. “I grapple just as much as I strike in practice. But in my fights, I prefer to knock people out. The best way to do that is kicking someone in the head, so I’m going to try to do that most of the time.”
Having watched Yamauchi fight, Cruickshank knows the Brazilian will attempt to drag him to the ground and submit him. Yamauchi has multiple arm bar and rear naked choke wins among his submissions.
“I’m sure he’s not afraid to strike, but he’ll try and get it to the ground as soon as possible,” Cruickshank said. “If he decides to stand and bang to show people he can do that, he will probably get knocked out. His best bet would be to try and get it to the ground. My best bet is to fend that takedown off and knock his head off.”
Reintroducing Himself to Old Fans
Following a 13-fight UFC career, Cruickshank has had a nearly-as-long nine-fight RIZIN stint. Since switching over to the overseas promotion, Cruickshank’s brand has flourished. He jogs out to the ring adorned in American flag-inspired attire to the tune of Hulk Hogan’s theme song, “Real American.” On top of that, his mustache has become one of the sport’s most recognizable.
The only problem? Since his personal re-brand, he’s only been exposed to hardcore fans in the United States. Being a Japan-based organization, RIZIN’s early-morning start times aren’t conducive to allowing most of North America to watch at a reasonable hour. With the RIZIN vs. Bellator card, that will be different.
The event’s main card is slated to start 10 p.m. eastern time on Saturday, Dec. 28, so a whole new batch will be exposed to Cruickshank’s American persona. The fact he gets to fight in front of a slew of new viewers is something that’s important to Cruickshank.
“I haven’t fought for the people in the states for a long time,” he said. “All my RIZIN fights have been in Japan, which starts at a ridiculous time. It’s kind of nice that I’ll be on the main card and going to be around the time everybody can stay up until midnight and watch the fight, which is really cool.”
A Special Shout
Should Cruickshank defeat Yamauchi, viewers may even be treated to a shout out to the President of the United States. Donald Trump has recently tweeted support of fighters like Colby Covington, Tito Ortiz and Bryce Mitchell. So, Cruickshank will consider hopping on the mic and giving Trump a holler, and perhaps earn a tweet from the POTUS.
“Dude, that would be awesome. I fucking love Donald Trump,” he said.
First, he has to win a match-up in which fans view him as a considerable underdog; of 145 Tapology users, 81 percent are siding with Yamauchi. Cruickshank said winning makes the 13-hour flight from Japan back to Detroit feel a lot better.
“I’m hungry and motivated. My war ‘stache is ready to go. Let’s do it.”
Bellator 237, aka Bellator Japan, will air live on Paramount Network and DAZN, and the card goes down at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. In addition to Daron Cruickshank vs. Goiti Yamauchi, the card is headlined by a heavyweight showdown between Fedor Emelianenko vs. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson.
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