Lightweight ready for new winning streak
CHICAGO – Evan Dunham took his first career loss about as well as one could. Having his boss standing next to him saying, essentially, he was robbed – well, that sure helped.
Dunham lost a split decision to Sean Sherk at UFC 119 in Indianapolis in Sept. 2010 – a fight the vast majority of fans, as well as on-site media scoring the fight live, thought he had won. Even Dana White said the UFC wasn’t going to treat the fight as a loss for Dunham – and put him up against Melvin Guillard. Unfortunately for Dunham, that fight most definitely counted as a loss – he was dropped by Guillard knees in the first round for his second straight setback on paper.
But Dunham (12-2, 5-2 UFC) rebounded in September with a unanimous decision victory over Shamar Bailey to get back in the win column, and he believes that in the crowded UFC lightweight division, he’s right in the mix. A win over Nik Lentz to close out the Saturday preliminary card at UFC on Fox: Evans vs. Davis would prove that.
“It felt really good to get back on the winning track,” Dunham told HeavyMMA. “Personally, I think I stand pretty high up there. I believe I’ve only lost one fight – against Melvin.”
Dunham’s fight against Lentz comes on relatively short notice. He was booked to meet England’s Paul Sass, but Sass dropped off the card a month ago with an injury. Lentz stepping in forced only a minor adjustment in Dunham’s game plan, he said. Sass would have brought a good jiu-jitsu game to the fight, but Lentz (21-4-2, 1 NC, 5-1-1, 1 NC UFC) is a wrestler. He’s also coming off his first UFC loss (on paper, anyway), just seven weeks ago at UFC 140.
“(The game plan is) kind of the same,” Dunham said. “Sass, he just wants to be on his back. And Lentz, he just wants to put you on your back. It’s two different things, but the style of fight that Lentz is, I’ve fought before. I just had to revert back to the kind of training I’ve had for other opponents, so it wasn’t that big of a change for me. I plan on going out there and winning, and I really don’t care how.”
In Chicago this week, Dunham’s fight against Lentz isn’t on the big Fox main card. But it does close out the preliminary card on Fuel TV. It’s a fight that has perhaps been overlooked by casual fans, and maybe even by the hardcores in terms of its importance in the lightweight division. A Dunham win would put him at 6-2 in the UFC, with just the one really true loss to Guillard, at least how Dunham’s bosses look at it, and would put him toward the top of the middle of a crowded pack waiting for one more push to get to the top of the heap, where title contention is mentioned alongside your name.
But like most of the rest of the card, Dunham has been overshadowed this week by the larger-than-life Chael Sonnen, who happens to be from Dunham’s home state of Oregon. Dunham said that’s no problem, though – he’s a fan of Sonnen’s brand of comedy.
“I think it’s great – I think he’s hilarious,” Dunham said. “I’ve known Chael for a long time. We’re not good friends or anything, but we used to be at wrestling camps when I was a kid and he’s always been a really nice guy to me. When they put the microphone in front of him, he always knows how to turn it on – and I’m a little bit jealous of his abilities to throw one-liners out there like he does.”
Dunham may not have the same comedy skills as Sonnen, but his plan for Saturday night against Lentz has nothing to do with humor. He plans on doing something to Lentz that he hasn’t seen in nearly five years – stopping him. (A loss to Charles Oliveira from an illegal knee that was overturned to a no contest notwithstanding.)
“I’m going to push the pace on him, get in his face and not give him an inch to breathe,” Dunham said. “I’m going to beat him up on the feet, beat him up on the ground, and I’m going to finish the fight in the second round.”
It’s not quite the same kind of Muhammad Ali-like poetry Sonnen has brought to the table this week, but Dunham’s getting there.
Dunham and Lentz close out the preliminary card Saturday at the United Center in Chicago. The prelims start at 5 p.m. Eastern, leading into the three-fight main card on Fox at 8 p.m. Eastern.