The never-ending pile of week-old garbage bags being tossed at UFC 115 is indicative of two things: one, the UFC has done a poor job of hyping the card and two, many fans don’t seem to appreciate quality matchmaking. There really is no other explanation for why a prelim slate with quality fighters like Mario Miranda and Mike Pyle is being treated with the kind of revulsion that should be reserved for skinheads with leprosy.
Further adding to my confusion is the twin-bill of prelims set to air on SpikeTV that make for arguably the best lightweight matches you’ll see on free TV this year. Tyson Griffin and Evan Dunham may well decide the next serious lightweight contender in their bout, and Matt Wiman and Mac Danzig will undoubtedly be fighting tooth and nail to avoid getting the pink slip of doom.
More true facts await all readers wise enough to continue, so put down the pipe laced with forum-talk and get knowledge on proper.
First things first: big ups to Xtreme Couture teammates Tyson Griffin and Evan Dunham for agreeing to do that thing they get paid to do — fight. Too many quality matchups have been botched by teammates acting like they’d be violating their imaginary warrior code by engaging in sport with a friend. Thanks to the manliness of Griffin and Dunham, the fans get to see one of the best lightweight matchups you’ll ever get on free TV.
The style clash itself is fascinating, as these two are mirror images of each other in almost every way. Standing, Dunham is a southpaw with a nasty left cross and the jab to set it up. Griffin is all about stepping in with leg kicks and uncorking close-quarters combinations. Just how committed Dunham is to pumping that jab will be vital to his early success, as he has gained a somewhat valid reputation for starting slow.
Griffin doesn’t exactly come out of the gate like a Xenomorph either, but he does set up his game early by closing the pocket and establishing his range. In contrast, Dunham’s inability to find his range quickly is really what holds him back. It took five minutes of Efrain Escudero reading him the riot act before he started snapping the jab and consequently turned the fight around. That telephone pole jab is especially important in this fight. Dunham has a marked reach advantage and could potentially neutralize Griffin’s offense by keeping him outside the pocket.
A more realistic scenario, however, is Dunham popping some one-two’s and suddenly finding Griffin attached to his leg like an anthropomorphized bear-trap. While Dunham has flashed some astute takedown defense before, if Griffin wants him on the mat, then that is where the fight is headed. Resolving the quantum entanglement between these two gets no easier there, as Dunham is incredibly active off his back while Griffin happens to have borderline impenetrable submission defense and is shockingly nimble in scrambles for a guy built like a box with muscles.
What Griffin lacks is serious ground striking. Even from top control, getting into a pure grappling match with Dunham is likely more trouble than it’s worth. Shades of Griffin’s bout with Thiago Tavares seem to be a distinct possibility in this one should it hit the floor. In that event, scoring largely becomes a matter of perception. The less discussed possibility is what happens if Dunham gains top control, but the truth is that you’re looking at identical scripts regardless of who scores the initial takedown.
I genuinely doubt there will be an obvious winner as far as scoring goes, but I do expect Dunham to get the better of Griffin on the feet and fight him to a standstill on the mat. The slow starts that have plagued Dunham before will likely cost him early, but his durability will carry him long enough for his technique to eventually take over. Regardless of whether the verdict is split or unanimous, the forums will turn into Nero’s Rome within seconds of Dunham’s hand being raised.