People hate honesty, and UFC lightweight Evan Dunham is no different.
In real life, it's awkward enough to balance things like your girlfriend asking how attractive you find her sister, or your boss asking where you see yourself in five years. When you are paid a moderate amount of money to have an informed opinion on sports, though, it can be just as difficult to find a balance between telling it like it is and not making your subjects publicly rant about how stupid you are.
Back in February, amidst my coverage of UFC 156, I wrote a few of those “What We Learned” articles you always see during events. One of those was about the fight between Gleison Tibau and Evan Dunham.
Will Evan Dunham end up fighting for the belt?
While the article in question only racked up about 2,200 reads, one of those clicks came from Evan Dunham (or somebody close to him), and boy, he did not like what I had to say. Days after the event, he made his disapproval known, citing the article and calling for a fight with Rafael dos Anjos (which, as you probably noticed, went down hours ago).
The reality is that the piece was relatively complimentary of Dunham. He was labeled as a “physically gifted, well-rounded mixed martial artist," “the new Joe Lauzon” (which is high praise from me, given my avatar on this website) and “really quite good." To say that it was completely nice, of course, would be a lie.
I criticized Dunham's performance against a solid-but-not-great Gleison Tibau (who he squeaked past with a split-decision victory). Worse yet, I dismissed the notion that he could have a title shot in the near future because he wasn't up to snuff with top lightweights.
Dos Anjos, I claimed, was part of that lot.
Mad as Dunham was (and he was madder than what he showed in the original interview), I stick by what I said. Against Tibau, he was slow and sloppy and displayed an unimpressive gas tank.
Obviously, he had his chance to prove me wrong on Saturday and show the world that he is, indeed, a top lightweight. In many ways, he did just that by fighting his heart out and giving fans (to quote myself) 15 minutes of pure hustle.
That wasn't enough to get the win, as the judges gave dos Anjos a unanimous 29-28 victory. Many called the decision a robbery, but it honestly wasn't.
I scored the first round in favor of Dunham, but I thought the second and third were close enough to go either way. FightMetric had dos Anjos outlanding Dunham in the first two rounds, despite Dunham's takedowns.
That said, the decision could have gone in favor of Dunham. On top of that, no way would the fight have ended up being a unanimous decision in either direction outside of Brazil.
So what did I learn? Was there anything to learn?
Basically, the only thing to take away from this fight for me is that dos Anjos is not quite as good as I (and others) pegged him. Dos Anjos, at least right now, sits among the lightweight Top 10 in the UFC's official rankings. That puts him above Khabib Nurmagomedov, Jamie Varner and Joe Lauzon. That is a sentiment I never subscribed to, even before this fight.
As for Dunham, my opinion on him remains the same. He's good, but I still don't feel like he is going to crack his way into title contention anytime soon. This decision loss, regardless of whether or not you agree with it, all but assures that.
If Dunham and his handlers are looking at this and want my advice for his next fight, I'd point them in the direction of Ross Pearson or the winner of Donald Cerrone vs. KJ Noons. I feel like he matches up well against all three of those fighters stylistically, and any one of those fights would be worthy of a main card slot in a pay-per-view event or a near-the-top booking on FX or Fox Sports 1.
If he wants me to give him some bulletin board material again, I'm going to reiterate the original quote that started all this. I did, after all, point out that Dunham wouldn't be able to beat both Rafael dos Anjos or Khabib Nurmagomedov.