Peaking is a term that can carry a lot of different meanings in popular culture. Regardless of the usage in individual circles, “to peak” essentially means hitting a high point in whatever a person’s endeavor is. It can mean the climax of a movie, reaching the top of a mountain, or the high point of one’s career. However, in MMA, the term “peaking” is a lot more physical and scientific than it is in other uses of the term.

In MMA, peaking refers to the fact that a fighter is hitting his high point in training prior to a fight. His training, body composition, diet, conditioning and mental focus have all come together to create a synergy that cannot be faked or synthesized. It takes the time and dedication of not only the fighter, but his coaches, training partners, family, friends and even doctors to get a fighter to peak on schedule. Unfortunately, after all of the work that goes into getting someone into warrior shape, the peak lasts for a very small window. Sometimes, that window is only a matter of days.

The small peaking window is exactly why it’s so important for a fight to happen on a scheduled date and also why late-notice injuries and canceled fights are such a huge detriment for everyone involved. For some people, poor planning or canceled fights can cause a fighter to peak too early and that creates a stale downturn in his game. For Nebraska fighter Dakota Cochrane, that very thing happened earlier this year.

After a series of fights never came to fruition, Cochrane had been up and down in his training. Finally, when he stepped into the cage with Marcus Edwards at Disorderly Conduct 19 on May 24, he was way off-peak and he paid for it. Coming into the fight on a three-fight winning streak—all finishes—Cochrane lost by submission in the first round.

“I ended up training too long for that fight,” said Cochrane in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “I thought I was going to have a fight. Then, I didn’t have a fight. I went four or five months thinking I was going to have a fight. Things didn’t work out again. I was changed three or four times. It was kind of a bad deal, but I just moved forward and prepared for the next guy. I peaked way before I should have.”

In his busy career, Cochrane has fairly consistently fought every three to six months with the average gap being closer to three months. After his January fight at Resurrection Fighting Alliance 6, he was getting ready for his next fight and the letdown train started rolling. While one scratched fight can have a horrible effect on a guy’s peak, a series of them puts him into a sort of unmotivated limbo driven by a depressed training regimen.

Cochrane knows that it’s part of the game, though. He looked at the loss as a learning experience and even though the fight was over in less than two minutes, he did take away some lessons.

“I just need to be more patient, settling down with my strikes,” Cochrane admitted.

The native Nebraskan came out swinging a little out of character, the fight went to the mat, and Edwards came out victorious. Cochrane recognized what happened and had to take some time off to decompress and get his head right. What better way to get away then to get in some beach time with his wife?

“I took a little bit of time off,” said Cochrane. “My wife and I went down to Orange Beach, Ala., and had a vacation and tried to just get away for a little bit. I got back here and started training. You’ve got to give your mind a little bit of a break.”

The best conditioning of mind and body happens when a fighter has a good clean start to camp, rises to the top, unloads on his opponent, and starts over. When a fighter is stuck in that limbo of bouncing up and down from peaks that keep getting shorter and shorter, the mind and body get muddied. A good vacation is the best way to get refreshed and clean out the cobwebs.

After about a month, Cochrane was back in the gym and got the call for his next challenge, which could prove to be a big one. On July 27, at Victory Fighting Championship 40 in Omaha, Neb., the veteran fighter will face Carey Vanier, another guy who has quite a bit of experience under his belt.

Vanier, who was born in Guyana but raised in Minnesota from the age of three, has been training out of Jackson’s MMA in Albuquerque since 2010. His background is in wrestling, a sport he participated in during his years in high school and junior college, where he became an All-American.

The Guyanese-American is a very well-rounded fighter, proficient in submission grappling, striking and, of course, wrestling. One can be sure that Vanier’s time spent in Albuquerque has helped bring all of his tools together, and Cochrane is fully aware of what his opponent brings to the table.

“I think it’ll be a tough fight,” explained Cochrane. “He’s coming from a good camp. I think he trains at Jackson’s and I think he’s fought in Bellator, so I think he’s going to definitely be a good challenge. Hopefully, he’s the favorite. I like it that way. I like to prove people wrong. I like to be the underdog, and I like to come out on top.”

Considering Cochrane is a local favorite in a town full of MMA fans that can be rough on out-of-town fighters, favorite or not, the crowd will likely be behind him. However, it’s more about what he feels intrinsically, and if he feels he’s the underdog, that’s the motivation he needs to get back in the win column. Cochrane knows the Bellator vet is a well-rounded fighter, but his record isn’t a whole lot different from his opponent’s.

“I like to think of myself as a pretty well-rounded fighter, too, so I’m just going to go in there and stand up until I have to take it to the ground,” Cochrane said. “That’s pretty much the game plan every time—just stand up until like I need to take it down.”

Whereas Vanier is a typical wrestler with slightly more knockouts than submissions, Cochrane is not the typical BJJ practitioner, earning a couple wins by knockout, but also displaying pretty good wrestling himself. Powerlifting is a hobby that Cochrane translates in the ring when dealing with strong wrestlers.

After his fight with Edwards came following a deflated camp of peaks and valleys, the Vanier fight is happening on less than four weeks’ notice. Cochrane welcomes the shorter notice. With his next RFA fight possibly coming in August or September, this is the perfect time for one more fight before returning to the bigger stage.

“I’m always training,” Cochrane stated. “When I find out I have a fight, I hit it a little bit harder and the intensity goes up. I’ll be in fight shape by then, for sure.

“I like to stay busy, stay active. Otherwise the training gets stagnant and you just don’t have as much motivation.”

A 26-day camp leaves little room for stagnation, and Cochrane will be peaking at the right moment for the first time since January. He’s disappointed in his last fight, knows what was wrong, corrected it, and is hungry to get back in the cage and make a statement.

“I’ll be looking for vengeance on this next guy, to get back on my winning streak.”

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 Schmidt’s, Inc. Follow Cochrane on Twitter: @DakotaCochrane

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