by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
Heading into last year, Rich “Cleat” Crunkilton had been one of the sport’s true unsung standouts, despite having been nothing less than extremely effective every time out.

Thankfully with more promotions getting on television, he was able to make a case for himself in World Extreme Cagefighting, culminating with a lightweight title match against then titleholder Rob McCullough in September.

After suffering only the second loss in his career, against McCullough, Crunkilton will be returning to the WEC this Wednesday in Las Vegas as he takes on upstart Sergio Gomez in a 155-pound divisional showdown.

“Even regardless of that (loss), it’s always important to me to have a good showing,” said Crunkilton of his return to fighting after a six-month layoff. “Being my first fight back, yeah it’s important to have a good showing and get the win.”

When asked if he feels he has to re-establish himself as a contender after losing in a title match, Crunkilton replied, “I don’t really look at it that way.

“One might say that, but I don’t think so, I don’t think I have to re-establish myself. I’ve been fighting for a long time and I think I’ve already kind of earned my spot, and I’ll fight the newer guys to prove it.”

His first test back will be Gomez, a fighter also looking to rebound after losing his last against Marcus Hicks in May.

“I watched his last fight and it looks like he is a wrestler and that his weakest point may be his jiu-jitsu,” Crunkilton commented of Gomez. “I think I might be able to capitalize on him that way.

“I think (the ground game) is probably where I have the biggest advantage, as far as experience. But getting to the ground and anything happens in between there, I’m also prepared for. I’ll fight him on the feet if I have to.”

With the overall success he has had in the WEC, Crunkilton feels he could return to a title fight sooner than later, and as always, his goal is to challenge for Jamie Varner’s championship.

“I want to get back into title contention (by building) up some wins and fight for the title again in the WEC,” said Crunkilton.

“If Jamie’s still the champion, hopefully I’ll get a title shot with two or three wins. I definitely feel I have a stronger chance to get a title shot shortly.”

The road to a title however starts with the first step, and Crunkilton seeks to take that first step Wednesday night against Sergio Gomez.

“I want to thank all my training partners down here at The Armory in Daytona (Florida) for helping me get ready for this fight,” concluded Crunkilton. “I look forward to showing up and getting it on. I’m looking to be exciting when I go out there, every time.”