No one was happier to see the calendar go from December to January than Daron Cruickshank.
“2015 was not my best year,” 'The Detroit Superstar' said. “I had that eye injury I was getting over, I had a bad weight cut which resulted in a bad performance, and my last fight, (James Krause) was better at that moment in time. I think I’m going to start off 2016 real exciting and start it off with a bang.”
He’s got no better dance partner to do that with than fellow stand-up specialist Paul Felder, and unlike other striker vs. striker matchups, Cruickshank doesn’t expect Saturday’s bout to turn into a wrestling match once the fists and feet start flying.
“You get two good strikers, I think that’s what’s gonna happen,” he said of the likelihood of the UFC FIGHT PASS featured fight in Boston turning into a bonus-winning effort for one or both of them. And that may have everything to do with each fighter’s reaction to the first big exchange.
Cruickshank is willing to take a shot or two and keep throwing, and he believes Felder has the same mindset.
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“I’ve seen that when he does get hit, he actually drops his guard and gets emotionally involved in the fight and kind of rushes in and does that kind of thing instead of going for a takedown,” he said.
Emotionally involved? Not Cruickshank.
“It’s about staying calm under pressure,” he said. “I don’t get emotionally involved in fights because I think when you do, you make bad mistakes and bad choices. Once you get emotionally involved, you get worked up and you get tired, and when you get tired, you make stupid decisions, you don’t fight smart, and technique basically goes out the window.”
And in the interest of full disclosure, the 30-year-old admits that after a career in competitive martial arts and through 24 pro MMA fights, he has slipped a time or two. Not completely, though.
“I guess when I get emotionally involved, I’m like ‘you #$%$%. Now I’m gonna throw something real hard at you.’” he said with a laugh. “But I don’t throw technique out the door. I never put my hands down and walk in on somebody.”
That’s why Cruickshank has won more than he’s lost, and heading into his December 2014 bout, he was one of the hottest lightweights in the sport, winner of three of his previous four (all in 2014), and on the verge of taking that next step with a win over the veteran Noons. Then an eye injury brought everything to a halt, literally and figuratively.
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“That was a scary moment for me,” Cruickshank said. “It’s an eye injury, you get poked twice and you’re basically getting stabbed in your face. You don’t want to lose your vision – ever – because you only get two eyes.”
Eye surgery followed, along with back-to-back losses to Beneil Dariush and James Krause.
“I was hoping for a rematch, so I kind of had my mind set on KJ Noons for a while,” he said. “And maybe that’s what threw my game off, fighting guys I didn’t want to fight when I really wanted to fight KJ and finish that. I believe I was winning. I won the first round, the second round basically stops, and there’s no actual finish.
“It was left out to dry and nothing ever came about from all that. That was mentally tough because there was no outcome to that fight. But looking forward, I’m fighting January 17 in Boston. I’ve had my heart set on that for three months ready, I trained, and I’m focused now.”
Translation: 2015 is gone and it’s all about Sunday night in Boston.
“I’ve always kept a positive attitude,” he said. “I don’t dwell on losses. You could say I have a goldfish memory – three seconds after it’s done, it’s done. I normally give myself 24 hours to reflect on it, but then it’s time to move forward.
“It’s time to get up and go. I’m not the perfect fighter. I’ve got wins and losses in my career and I brush myself off, I get up and I keep going every single time.”