This Saturday May 10 at UFC Fight Night 40: Brown vs Silva, Erik Koch (14-3) will make his second go at 155 pounds against former Ultimate Fighter contestant Daron Cruickshank (14-4).
With lightning-fast stand-up and a sharp ground game, Koch has been on the list of fighters to watch since he made his first Octagon appearance. After making the transition from the WEC in 2011 as a featherweight, the Duke Roufus protege looked to be following the same meteoric rise of his teammate, UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis, toward the top of his division. However, injuries and tough weight cuts forced a move up the ladder to lightweight.
It wasn’t that long ago that the rising star Koch had reeled off two straight impressive victories in the UFC, earning him a date with featherweight champion Jose Aldo. The bout was originally slated for UFC 149 and then later UFC 153, but a series of injuries for both fighters resulted in the fight being scrapped and replaced with a superfight between former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar and Aldo.
In the lead-up to the scheduled fight with Aldo, many wondered whether or not the young prospect was being thrown into a title shot too soon, but with a 13-1 record at the time and that one loss coming against fellow top contender Chad Mendes in tough decision in the WEC, it was hard to argue against New Breed’s place in the UFC 145-pound division.
Following the cancellation of the title fight, Koch didn’t the look like himself in his next two performances against Ricardo Lamas and Dustin Poirier, which helped prompt the move up to lightweight for the immensely talented WEC veteran. This past February at UFC 170, Koch made his UFC debut as a lightweight, and the positive effects of the less strenuous weight cut were immediately visible.
The 25-year-old once again looked like the razor-sharp fighter we had seen skyrocket up the featherweight rankings as he blasted veteran Rafaello Oliveira in the first round, putting him firmly in the mix at 155 pounds.
Koch will face a stiff test in his next outing against Cruickshank, who is coming off of a spectacular wheel-kick KO in his own right against Mike Rio. This should be an exciting matchup between two dynamic strikers, but Koch should hold a clear edge an essentially every other department. If the same Erik Koch that we saw in his first lightweight appearance shows up against Cruikshank, it could be a short night for the TUF veteran.
Koch looks blazing fast at 155, has shown no sign of ill effect with the lessened weight cut, and hasn’t lost an ounce of stopping power. It would unwise for Koch to look past such a talented fighter like Cruickshank, but if he can get through this second test at lightweight, look for him to make a serious run at 155.