For lightweight Dakota Cochrane, 2014 is shaping up to be a big year.
Following a loss in his last fight of 2013, Cochrane has rebounded this year with two impressive wins over UFC veterans Efrain Escudero and Anton Kuivanen.
Against Escudero in March, Cochrane was able to secure the unanimous decision victory in a bout he feels was one of his toughest ever.
“I knew going into that fight it was going to be a tough fight, but coming out of the fight I was even more impressed with Efrain,” said Cochrane. “I thought he would be easier to break mentally, but he was tough and ready to go.
“I think we both really wanted to win that fight, but it was my night.”
Cochrane had a much quicker bout against Kuivanen in June, where he scored a flying-knee knockout just 48 seconds into the bout.
“It was easier than I anticipated,” Cochrane told MMAWeekly.com. “I figured it would be a pretty good battle, but I caught (Kuivanen) with the knee and it was lights out.
“I figured he thought I was going to shoot-in on him, so I faked a couple shots and then jumped trying to land the knee and it just happened to land on the right spot.”
Cochrane (17-5) will look to raise his winning streak to three when he takes on Christos Giagos (9-2) for the RFA lightweight title this Friday night in Sioux Falls, S.D.
“He looks like he’s going to be a real tough fight,” said Cochrane of Giagos. “On paper, we seem pretty equal.
“He’s got a mixed win record (of submissions and knockouts) and I have a mixed win record. I’m sure he’s well-rounded, so I’m prepared for a lot of looks and have to be on my A-game that night.”
For Cochrane, not only is a title on the line against Giagos, but also possibly an opportunity to get a second chance at the UFC after his disappointment at The Ultimate Fighter 15.
“I think every fight I take is a big fight,” said Cochrane. “It hopefully puts me one step closer to going to the UFC or another promotion like that.
“I want to make it big in this sport. This is a title fight for the RFA, and I feel privileged to be fighting for the title. I’ve been working for it a long time, and I’m glad to finally get to.”
Of course, fighting in the region he shares a name with doesn’t hurt Cochrane’s chances.
“I’m undefeated in both (North and South Dakota), so hopefully I can continue that.”