In December of 2011 Dakota Cochrane (12-3) gained widespread recognition throughout the MMA community when he battled Jamie Varner to a decision and upset the former WEC lightweight champion and current UFC fighter.
In the months following the win, Cochrane would go on to lose two consecutive bouts and fail to make it into “The Ultimate Fighter Live” house before he was able to snap his losing streak this past Saturday with an upset submission win over UFC veteran Joe “Daddy” Stevenson (31-15) in the main event of RFA 3. But what could arguably be considered Cochrane’s biggest win to date came close to not happening at all just some 24 hours earlier.
After completing an intense eight week training camp in preparation for his bout with Stevenson, Cochrane was informed as he arrived for the weigh-ins Friday afternoon that his opponent was overweight, and that the fight’s future was in question.
“I found out that Joe wasn’t going to make weight as I got to the weight-ins,” Cochrane said. “So I kind of had a heads up, but it kind of irritated me a little bit when [Stevenson] drank a bottle of water as he was walking off the scale. They always give you a couple hours to make weight, but he didn’t even try, so that kind of frustrated me a little bit.”
Cochrane’s management team had wanted Stevenson to attempt to cut the extra four pounds before they would agree to the fight, but when it became obvious that Stevenson wasn’t going to attempt the weight cut, Cochrane and his team began working with RFA to ensure the fight would still happen.
“I still wanted to fight,” Cochrane said. “But my fight coach and my manager wanted [Stevenson] to try to make weight before we’d take the fight. We realized that as he started drinking water that he wasn’t going to try to make weight, so then we had to come up with some terms for the fight to happen. RFA did an extremely good job working with us and making sure that we were dealt with fairly.”
The fight was on, and a little more than 24 hours later Cochrane found himself stepping into the cage for one of the biggest bouts of his career to date. For Cochrane, the fight ironically proved to be more predictable than the weigh-ins had the day before.
“Overall the fight played out just exactly like we thought it would,” Cochrane said. “We didn’t think that he would want to stand with me after a little bit. We knew he would probably go for a takedown so that’s kind of what we prepared for.”
Stevenson did indeed shoot in looking for a takedown early in the first, but he wasn’t able to get it, and in the closing seconds of the round it was actually Cochrane who was able to take his opponent to the mat. The result of that battle for position gave Cochrane a boost in confidence while also leaving Stevenson noticeably tired at the start of the second round.
“I think it definitely wore him out,” Cochrane said. “I’m usually told that I’m a pretty strong guy, so between all my strength I used to get that takedown I think that definitely had something to do with Joe being tired. Once I realized that I caught him a little bit right at the end of that first round it game me a pretty good boost in confidence.”
The fight would come to an end at one minute and six seconds into the second round when Cochrane was able to submit Stevenson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, by rear-naked choke. And while three of Stevenson’s previous five submission losses had come via rear-naked choke, Cochrane said he no intentions of trying to pick up a submission win at the outset of the fight.
“I really was trying to stay away from the ground game all together,” Cochrane said. “But you know when I’m punching him and he turns his back to you and gives up his neck, it’s kind of a natural instinct to go for that. It’s just one of my strengths I guess.”
Now, with a win over another notable UFC veteran like Stevenson, Cochrane hopes that now he can be known for his MMA abilities instead of just as the guy who beat Jamie Varner several months ago.
“I don’t want to be a person that’s just known for beating Jamie Varner,” Cochrane said. I’m kind of hearing that quite a bit. I don’t want to be that type of guy, so I’ve got to keep winning against guys like Joe ‘Daddy’ and Jamie Varner.”
And as for a second chance to fight in the UFC following his failed TUF Live bid, Cochrane is hopeful that he’ll eventually get a call from the largest MMA promotion on the planet. Until then, Cochrane plans on returning to the RFA cage sooner rather than later.
“You know I think that when the time is right I’ll get my shot [in the UFC],” Cochrane said. “But as of right now I should be fighting for RFA again. I think they’re looking at a show at the end of August or sometime around there. And like I said, you never know, but if I did get a call from the UFC then I’ll be preparing for that.”
Dakota Cochrane would like to thank his gym, Premier Combat Center, and all of the guys there. He would also like to thank all of his sponsors including Big Brain tattoo and Schilke Erectors.