Daron Cruickshank is a 5’8″ lightweight with an overall record of 13-4, 3-2 in the UFC. His opponent is Mike Rio, a 5’10” lightweight with an overall record of 9-3, 1-2 in the UFC. Both fighters are coming off losses. Cruickshank lost his last fight by second-round submission to Adriano Martins while Rio lost by first-round submission to Tony Ferguson.
Cruickshank is definitely a fighter who likes to keep fights standing and slug it out with his opponent. While Cruickshank uses a variety of kicks in his arsenal he hasn’t found consistent success as a striker. Overall, Cruickshank has absorbed 187 significant strikes while landing 172, a -15 margin. Cruickshank’s best performance was in his second UFC fight against Henry Martinez, where he out-struck Martinez 52-21 and won the fight by knockout in the second round. However, in his following fight against John Makdessi, Cruickshank was out-struck 86-51. Cruickshank appears to be a good but not great striker overall.
It’s difficult to draw conclusions about Cruickshank’s takedown game because the UFC has primarily matched him up against fellow strikers. Makdessi and Martinez are both examples of fighters who prefer to stand and strike as their base offense. Cruickshank also won by split decision against Yves Edwards despite Edwards landing slightly more significant strikes (48-44). He’s only been taken down twice but has yet to face an opponent who could be considered a wrestler.
As is often the case with strikers like Cruickshank, the ground game appears to be where he is most vulnerable. Cruickshank is 7-1 in fights that end by TKO and 5-1 in fights that end by decision, but just 1-2 in fights that end by submission. In the UFC Cruickshank has been caught in three submission attempts, one of which forced him to tap out. Cruickshank’s lone submission victory was against an opponent whose record is currently 1-4. The most efficient way to fight Cruickshank is likely to force a grappling battle.
It’s hard to watch Mike Rio fight without immediately identifying flaws in his game. Rio throws strikes in such a way that he leaves his head up and his chin exposed. In fights against Tony Ferguson, John Cofer, and Andy Ogle, Rio was repeatedly hit with clean, hard shots directly to the head. So far Rio’s chin has held up as he has yet to lose a fight by knockout. However, it’s a trend that is likely to result in some knockout losses eventually – and could easily lead to a knockout loss against a striker like Cruickshank.
Rio’s background is in wrestling and it shows as he pursues takedowns on a frequent basis. Rio has landed five takedowns in just 19 minutes of UFC action despite only landing them at a 31 percent success rate. It seems that Rio’s opponents are geared to defend the takedown because they don’t respect his striking abilities – and this makes Rio’s job more difficult. There have been extended periods of Rio clinching, searching for a takedown and only sometimes finding it. To Rio’s credit he is very persistent in pursuit of the takedown.
Unfortunately Rio’s ground game is an enormous liability. Rio’s wrestling skill often puts him in a great position such as side control or mount but he just as easily loses that position to his opponent. Rio has a history of losing by submission – both of his last two losses were by first-round submission against Ferguson and Francisco Trinaldo. Rio was also finished by rear naked choke against Ogle despite having taken Ogle’s back earlier in the round. Ogle worked from that position to Rio’s guard, then the mount, then the back, and finally the submission that finished the fight.
Daron Cruickshank vs. Mike Rio
Rio has far too many flaws for me to pick him to win this fight. His tendency to get hit hard is very troubling against an opponent like Cruickshank who has a history of winning by knockout. I could easily see Cruickshank knocking Rio out with a well-timed punch or kick. While Rio may be able to take Cruickshank down and test Cruickshank’s ground game, I don’t trust Rio to stay out of submission holds at all. There’s a very good chance that Cruickshank has the more effective ground game. Cruickshank is simply the better overall fighter and has to be considered the favorite to win this match.
Pick: Daron Cruickshank by TKO
DEGENERATE GAMBLER’S CORNER
The line opened with Cruickshank the favorite as -210 and Rio the underdog at +160. The line has since moved to Cruickshank -260/Rio +180. Cruickshank is just too expensive for me right now – he’s too flawed for me to pay $2.60 to win $1.00. We could easily see Rio smother Cruickshank with takedowns and perhaps win by submission himself. At the same time I have zero interest in betting Rio here so it’s a total pass for me.