(Two entirely appropriate responses to the judges’ verdict. PicProps: Our Man J-Dawg)
Besides an affinity for horrifying Oregon Ducks gear, there isn’t much to dislike about Evan Dunham. In fact, in the wake of UFC 119 you could say Dunham has positioned himself as sort of an “Anti-Frank Mir” in MMA circles, emerging from his split decision loss to Sean Sherk looking like a winner, while the former UFC heavyweight champion emerged from his KO win looking like a loser. Given the near-unanimous public sentiment that Dunham got the “No Vaseline” treatment at 119, it will be interesting to see if the UFC simply ignores the amazing incompetence of the ringside officials on Saturday night and keeps the kid full-speed-ahead on his rise to a title shot.
Signs point to yes, as the always subtle UFC President took to his Twitter immediately after the official verdict to announce Dunham had been “robbed!” Meanwhile, Dunham himself — if his recent postfight with MMA Junkie is any indication — seems to be taking a far pluckier approach to his first professional loss.
As if laying out a blueprint for the most likable way for a fighter to handle a controversial defeat, Dunham describes his immediate plans as: "Get back in the gym, train my ass off, correct the mistakes I made, and go win some damn fights.”
"It’s one of these fights that’s very open to interpretation," Dunham explains. "I think I won the fight. Do I think it was really, really close? Yes, I do. But whatever … (Sherk) deserves a win. I’ve got a lot of respect for the guy, and it was a pleasure to fight him. I’d love to fight him again. I know I could beat him if I fought him again."
The Dunham-Sherk battle – for my money the best bout on last weekend’s card – again brought to the fore just how “open to interpretation” scoring an MMA fight can be. No one in the world seems to have a good handle on how to score failed submission attempts, or escapes, or whether Sherk’s takedowns and the fact he split Dunham open with one good elbow should’ve outpointed Dunham’s striking and litany of near-miss chokes. Even without all that, Dunham’s ability to negate Sherk’s offense by getting up off his back, coupled with his clear dominance on the feet should’ve been enough. Unfortunately, any sport that includes a phrase as slippery as “Octagon control” in its major judging criteria is going to have some gray areas. It’s just that sometimes those gray areas irrevocably screw up somebody’s 11-0 record. When that happens, it sure sucks.
Dunham, naturally, chooses to blame himself, which we can all agree is the appropriate response from an up-and-coming young fighter.
"What all this comes down to is that it’s my fault that I lost because I didn’t finish him," he says. "When you don’t finish somebody, you’re subject to the judges’ scrutiny. I don’t place blame on anybody. It’s my fault that I did not go out there and finish him, and I needed to finish him."
The self-imposed punishment extends to more than words. Dunham implies to the Junkie that he’s not going to allow himself to spend any of his $70,000 Fight of the Night bonus, because he “doesn’t reward a loss.” He’s just going to put it in the bank and let it sit there.
Well, that seems a little extreme, frankly.