The Ultimate Fighter: Live had its fair share of issues, some of which became very apparent at the beginning of the season.  For starters, the executives at Zuffa, LLC, parent company of UFC and The Ultimate Fighter franchise, obviously didn’t take into consideration how long 16 live fights would take, even if the fights consisted of one five-minute round.  The fight-in episode took way longer than most viewers had hoped, but there were some exciting finishes.

Arguably one of the worst aspects of the casting was the short fights to get into the house, and the fighters that got the short end of the stick were the ones that lost by one-round decisions.  Of the decision losses, the person who was dealt the worst hand was Dakota Cochrane, the only fighter to lose by split decision.  Granted, he lost to James Vick, who made it all the way to the semifinals on the show, but Cochrane was the person closest to making it onto the show that didn’t, and it was all based on a five-minute performance in one judge’s eyes.

Cochrane, who is originally from Fairbury, Neb., but trains out of Premier Combat Center in Omaha, first stepped into the ring as a professional in November 2009.  He worked the regional circuits in the Midwest for the next two years, amassing a record of 11-1 with notable victories over Marcus LeVesseur and Jamie Varner.

Cochrane (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

In early December 2011, Cochrane began the process of trying out for the first live season of TUF.  Around the same time, Resurrection Fighting Alliance was holding its first event, during which Cochrane lost for only the second time in his career.  On March 9, 2012, Cochrane fought in the TUF: Live premiere, and followed that up with his third loss at RFA 2 later that month.  Needless to say, this was not a good run for the native Nebraskan, but he has since made up for this tough time in his career.

In June 2012, Cochrane came out of his slump with a second-round submission of longtime UFC veteran Joe Stevenson at RFA 3.  In November, he won at RFA 4 by first-round submission, and again at RFA 6 in January by TKO with less than 30 seconds left in the fight.  His last win, over then 23-7 Deivison Francisco Ribeiro, was a hard-fought one, and Cochrane definitely walked away identifying some holes to fill moving forward.

“He was a pretty good counter-striker,” said Cochrane in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner.  “I felt that he had faster hand speed than me, so that’s something I incorporated into my workouts, trying to increase my hand speed.”

It’s no surprise that Cochrane identified hands as an area that needed his attention.  He is a high-level MMA fighter in every sense of the word, but, having finished 50 percent of his victories by some form of submission, the grappling game is more in his wheelhouse than the striking.

Now 14-3, the 27-year-old Cochrane wants to keep his winning streak alive, and having fought on five RFA cards, he has established himself as one of RFA’s “franchise players.”  However, RFA can be a challenging organization to work for as a pro because there can be big gaps between events, so working fighters sometimes need to supplement their work by heading to some smaller promotions.  Cochrane is one of those guys.

“I’m still under contract with RFA,” explained Cochrane.  “I have two more fights with them.  RFA let us know that we weren’t going to have a fight until August, so we asked if we could fight in between, just for a local show.  They said that would be fine.  I like to stay busy and didn’t want to sit for seven months.  There were a few stipulations that we had to follow, but ultimately they let us fight for Disorderly Conduct.”

Disorderly Conduct is a local promotion in Omaha that has been conducting fights throughout Nebraska since 2011.  In 2012, the organization held 10 events, and it has already held three this year.  For its 19th installment this Friday night at the Ramada Plaza Omaha Hotel and Convention Center in Omaha, Neb., DC has sought out Cochrane for its headlining fight.  He was originally set to face the 10-7 Taurean Bogguess, but Bogguess was an injury scratch, so Colorado’s Marcus “Bad Intentions” Edwards, who is only 3-1 as a pro, took the fight on two weeks’ notice.

Edwards may only have four pro fights under his belt, but he was 11-0 as an amateur, finishing 12 opponents in 15 total fights.  He has earned three knockout wins and nine submissions, with his only loss coming by decision to Justin Gaethje, who has a combined amateur and pro record of 14-0 and is now fighting under the World Series of Fighting banner.  Needless to say, Edwards is an extremely tough up-and-comer who has 11 first-round finishes.

“He looks pretty aggressive,” admitted Cochrane.  “I’m sure he’ll be a pretty decent wrestler.  I’m sure he’ll be wanting to strike and probably go for a takedown.  He’ll be pretty aggressive.  That’s what I got from him.”

As simple as that seems, one can be sure that Cochrane is taking this fight very seriously.  With his tough run in 2012, the last thing the Nebraskan needs is to drop a fight to Edwards now.

“I think he’s definitely a game opponent,” said Cochrane.  “He’s pretty new to the pro side, but, obviously, he had a good amateur record.  He’s definitely a quality opponent and I’m not taking him lightly.”

The former TUF contestant knows that his opponent, with that many first-round finishes, is not going to come out at a slow pace.

“I think he’ll probably come at me hard, like he always does.  And then once we get to striking and I’m able to connect like I feel like I can, he’ll probably want to take me down.  I’ll probably go from there.”

If there’s one area that could get tricky in this fight, it’s the submission game.  Edwards may have finished most of his amateur opponents on the ground, but that’s where Cochrane is comfortable and has defeated most of his professional opponents, including Stevenson and Team Alpha Male’s Derrick Burnsed, who are both grappling-heavy fighters.  Should this one hit the mat, which it probably will, fans are likely going to see a dazzling display of submission grappling.

After his fight with Edwards, Cochrane will be looking forward to that August fight.

“I’m planning on fighting for RFA next,” Cochrane stated.  “I don’t think we can fit anything else in before then.”

Cochrane (top) controls his opponent (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

RFA may be a regional promotion, but it has put together some amazing cards.  Some of the fights have included the likes of former UFC fighters Jens Pulver, Houston Alexander, Gilbert Yvel and Efrain Escudero.  With a nice roster of old-school fighters and up-and-comers, one has to wonder who Cochrane will face next.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t yet know.

“They were thinking Tyson Griffin, but he went over to the World Series of Fighting, so that’s not going to be an option anymore,” Cochrane explained.  “Other than that, I don’t know who I’ll be fighting yet.”

So, in the three months between his next two fights, Cochrane will have to fill his down time when he’s not in the gym with the typical day-to-day stuff.

“I work as a personal trainer and take care of my two kids and my wife,” he said.  “I try to pay the bills for them and make sure they’re growing up and obviously taken care of.  I’ll probably be doing some powerlifting competitions after this next fight.  I’ve been wanting to get back into that a little bit.”

While he may not equate powerlifting with his direct MMA training, it would definitely benefit his fighting to add strength training to his regimen.  But make no doubt, Cochrane’s plans for the future are clear.

“I’ve been working my ass off to get back into the UFC.  That’s my number-one goal.”

Dakota would like to thank Premier Combat Center, specifically his coaches Ryan Jensen, Kurt Podany, and Scott Morton, in addition to his other coaches and training partners.  He would also like to thank his sponsors: Big Brain, Nissan of Omaha, Hollow Point Entertainment, Schilke Erectors, Prism Signs, Monarch Tires and Wheels, Prairie Star Photography, CageTix.com, Stay Rx Fit, Old Chicago, and Shirts, Inc. Follow Cochrane on Twitter: @DakotaCochrane

Top Photo: Dakota Cochrane (center) celebrates with his team (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)