UFC Fight Night 25: Under the Radar

Shamar Bailey

Lightweight battle not getting much attention

You win some, you lose some; that’s just the way it goes.

Last weekend’s Under the Radar fight came with a violent finish, but the first round actually featured a pause where the referee was forced to implore one of the fighters to engage. It was like a bad movie with an explosive ending; tough to sit through, but cool finish lets you walk out feeling alright.

This weekend’s fight, however, shouldn’t require any directions from the third man in the ring. I expect both participants to bring it from the start, and that’s why I’m surprised this fight isn’t getting a little more attention.

EVAN DUNHAM vs. SHAMAR BAILEY

Evan Dunham (11-2, 4-2 UFC)

LOSS UFN 23 Melvin Guillard (TKO, Round 1)
LOSS UFC 119 Sean Sherk (Split Decision)
WIN UFC 115 Tyson Griffin (Split Decision)

Shamar Bailey (12-3, 1-0 UFC)

WIN TUF 13F Ryan McGillivray (Unanimous Decision)
LOSS LOF 41 Kurt Kinser (TKO, Round 1)
LOSS SFC 7 Justin Wilcox (Unanimous Decision)

Why I Love This Fight

This time last year, Dunham was preparing to face former UFC lightweight champion Sean Sherk. He was unbeaten, riding a wave of four consecutive impressive performances, and at or near the top of everyone’s list of up-and-coming contenders in the 155 pound division.

How does being on the wrong side of a bad decision and getting beaten by one of the top lightweights in the division cause a guy to fall off the face of the Earth?

Dunham should have been awarded the win over Sherk. The UFC clearly thought so as well, considering they originally booked him to face Kenny Florian in the main event of Fight for the Troops 2 in January.

Melvin Guillard filled in for the injured Florian and dominated Dunham, who hasn’t been back in the cage since, but the 29-year-old still has all the talent that made him one to watch this time last year.

Shamar Bailey – Heavy MMA’s TUF 13 blogger – scored a solid win at the finale over teammate Ryan McGillivray, bouncing back from a poor showing against Chris Cope in the quarterfinals of the show. This will be Bailey’s debut at lightweight, and the drop down in weight makes all kinds of sense. He’s still the shorter of the two fighters in this one, but his compact and strong build coupled with his explosive wrestling should play better at 155 in the long term.

Stylistically, this is a very good test for both fighters. Though he had some very good moments in his meeting with Sherk, Dunham still had some difficulty defending the takedown. While he’s not the on the same level as Sherk, Bailey fights from a wrestling base as well, and if Dunham hasn’t bolstered his ability to stuff the shot, he’ll once again be forced to play defense off his back.

Conversely, Dunham’s strong jiu-jitsu game and improved striking will be plenty for Bailey to deal with. He won’t be able to just ride out control on the ground, as Dunham will be looking for sweeps and submissions the whole time. On the feet, Dunham is slightly taller and blends his strikes more effectively than we’ve seen from Bailey in the past. For Bailey to be effective, he’ll need to score with his hands first in order to set-up the takedown attempts.

There is also the state of the division at play here. Lightweight is brimming with talent; a new contender seems to emerge from each event. As such, neither of these guys can really afford to falter. Dunham doesn’t want a third straight defeat on his record, and a single loss might honestly be enough to squeeze Bailey out; remember, Dana White wasn’t overly impressed with his performance on the show.

With the overall lack of name-brand talent populating the preliminary portion of this card, I would have expected this quality lightweight battle to be getting more attention.

But that hasn’t been the case, and that’s why it’s here, under the radar.

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