For many fans, Daron Cruickshank has already proven himself to be a much better fighter than they thought possible. The TUF: Live contestant has put together a 4-2 record in the UFC and his most recent win, a knockout of Erick Koch, was undeniably the biggest of his career. That said, if he beats Jorge Masvidal at UFC on Fox 12, Cruickshank will have made a claim as one of the world's top tier lightweights. Fox Sports first reported the matchup, and that the bout has been confirmed by the UFC.
For Masvidal it would appear that the UFC has him on a slower track to the division's top ten. A bout against Pat Healy and now Cruickshank, are good, relevant fights, but they aren't giving Masvidal a huge boost in terms of public recognition. Still, for a fighter looking to stay busy and fight against competition fans want to see, Masvidal can't do much better than Cruickshank.
For Cruickshank this is a big step forward in his darkhorse potential to be a top ten fighter. Masvidal has exactly the kind of style that has run through Cruickshank in the past. If he hasn't been able to fix his problems with aggressive infighters (especially those who can grapple) he's going to have a terrible time of things. However, a win here would put him on a three fight streak following his loss to Adriano Martins, and would be a win over a top quality veteran fighting at or close to the peak of his abilities.
Admittedly, and as much as I love watching Cruickshank fight, I really think this is Masvidal's fight to lose. Cruickshank's kick heavy style may just be too difficult to modify around opponents who can solve it. And I think Masvidal most definitely has the tools to solve it. Cruickshank may be best served taking a page out of Rustam Khabilov's book, with his use of unusual punching angles and dynamic distance control to outwork Masvidal on the feet, but the key to that style might also be predicated on a couple of decades of Sambo training.
UFC on Fox 12 takes place on July 26th in San Jose, California, here's a look at the card as it stands right now.
Anthony Johnson vs. Antônio Rogério Nogueira
Dennis Bermudez vs. Clay Guida
Michael Johnson vs. Josh Thomson
Daron Cruickshank vs. Jorge Masvidal
Tim Means vs. Hernani Perpetuo
Gilbert Burns vs. Andreas Stahl
Noad Lahat vs. Steven Siler
Akbarh Arreola vs. Tiago dos Santos