Sean Sherk returns to the cage to face top prospect Evan Dunham
Every now and then, a young, fast-rising prospect in the Ultimate Fighting Championship is matched up against a crafty and successful veteran. UFC 119 has two such match ups, one of which is a highly intriguing lightweight bout between Sean Sherk and Evan Dunham.
Sherk, who turned 37 this past August, is nearly 10 years the elder of top prospect Dunham and boasts a lengthy and successful career. Of his 38 professional contests, which include three championship bouts, two of which he won, “The Muscle Shark” has only exited the Octagon with a loss five times.
Throughout his career in the UFC, he has always been touted as one of the top tier fighters, regardless of what division he was fighting in. He has climbed the mountain of the lightweight division, earning the ultimate prize of a world title.
And while it has been some time since Sherk wore the gold around his waist, he feels that his prior successes at the very top of the lightweight division are what fuel his run towards another world championship.
“I think I’m a lot more dangerous wanting something I already had, than somebody else is wanting something that they’ve never had before,” Sherk said in his pre-fight interview over at UFC.com. “I’ve literally fought the best of the best in this industry for a long time. I’ve fought for world titles in two different weight classes. He thinks I’m going to keep up with him, that’s great. Let’s meet in the center of the Octagon. Let’s fight and let’s see who goes down first.”
While Sherk believes that his former title of world champion gives him the edge in the race to the lightweight crown, Dunham does not look at it the same way in the least.
In his mind, Dunham feels that taking his road toward the gold one fight at a time, staying focused on the smaller triumphs and taking things one fight at a time. So far, this type of belief has treated him well.
Dunham has progressed rapidly since beginning his career in 2007, working his way to a perfect 11-0 record. He debuted with the promotion at UFC 95, earning a knockout victory over Per Eklund, and followed that up with three consecutive victories, including his latest, a split-decision win over Tyson Griffin at UFC 115.
Now, Dunham steps into the cage with a man who has fought the very best for a very long time, and he realizes what a win Saturday night in Indianapolis, Indiana would do for him.
“Anybody who is familiar with MMA knows Sean Sherk,” Dunham said in his pre-fight interview on UFC.com. “He’s been around forever, he’s a great, great wrestler, and he comes at you hard. He’s going to come out there, push the pace, get in my face, and hopefully try to take me down.”
When Dunham looks at Sherk, he notices all the accomplishments and the vast experience his opponent has gained in the sport. However, he also realizes he is looking at one of the better wrestlers in all of mixed martial arts. Sherk has made life difficult for countless opponents with his unquestionable ability to dictate a fight through his wrestling base.
However, while wrestling is perhaps the discipline of choice for several of the most successful fighters (see St. Pierre, George), MMA is about being well-rounded, and that’s exactly the kind of fighter Dunham believes he is. And that is why he believes that he will be the lightweight taking the next step up the ladder Saturday night.
“I know my all around game is better than Sherk’s,” Dunham said. “He’s a former champ, but that doesn’t intimidate me by any means. If anything, it motivates me. I need to beat him, take him out, get him out of my way, and move forward. And that’s exactly what I plan on doing.”
“I don’t see him beating me at any aspect of the game,” Sherk said. “My striking is fast. It’s crisper. My wrestling is better. My jiu-jitsu is better. There are a lot of hungry kids out there. I’m hungry too. I want it. I’ve been there already. I had that belt. I loved it. I loved being world champion. I want that again.”
Each fighter believes, as he should, that he is the greater of the two. Saturday night is the night and Indianapolis, Indiana’s Conseco Fieldhouse is the scene of the crime. One fighter’s hopes in rising to the championship level lives on, while the other’s dies, at least momentarily.
Tune in Saturday night at 10 p.m. ET for UFC 119 and discover which lightweight inserts himself into title contention.