Three fights and three victories in the UFC, and it still seems like Evan Dunham is flying under the radar, but that won't be the case anymore if he defeats Tyson Griffin this weekend at UFC 115.
If Dunham is still flying under the radar, it's not because of his performances inside the UFC.
He started his UFC career by knocking out Per Eklund at UFC 95, and then beat up Marcus Aurelio en route to a split decision at UFC 102.
In his best performance to date, Dunham stole Efrain Escudero's thunder by beating the TUF 8 winner in the third round with an armbar that was painful just to watch.
If there is a reason why Dunham is flying under the radar, it's probably because he's a generally quiet and humble guy who doesn't do or say inflammatory things.
Dunham recently moved to Las Vegas to further his MMA training, but just because he now lives in the city of sin doesn't mean that that he's living the crazy life.
He's got girlfriend (now his new fiancee), a dog, and a career as a professional fighter.
"I'm really focused on fighting and I want to make it a career. For me to do that I need to live a very clean life. I do have my occasional beer after my fights but generally I don't do that stuff," Dunham recently told Bleacher Report.
"I don't go out to the clubs. I don't do any of that stuff. I hang out with my fiancee and my dog. I'm a homebody. I like to hang out and relax with family and friends."
When I asked Dunham specifically how he spends his time, he pointed back to his training.
"Honestly, my number one hobby is training. I really love training. I like sharpening up different aspects. When I'm not fighting, I like to put the gi on and roll with my friends who are competing in the worlds and the Pan-Ams and that kind of stuff."
Usually Dunham spends a ton of time at the Xtreme Couture gym for his training. For his fight against fellow Xtreme Couture fighter Tyson Griffin.
"I'm not in a position to turn down any fights. I'll fight anybody they put in front of me. My goal is to move up the ladder toward a title contender spot, and I'll fight anybody who puts me in that position."
Dunham decided to leave Xtreme Couture because he felt that Tyson Griffin was the more senior guy at the gym.
But just because Dunham hasn't been training at Xtreme Couture, don't think for an instant that he hasn't been getting high level trainng. Dunham listed at least four different gyms where he has been training for his next fight.
"I'm at Throwdown gym. I'm at Cobra Kai, and I'm at Tapout."
At Tapout I've been working with Shawn Tompkins, Chris Horodecki, Sam Stout, and Mark Hominick, and some good wrestlers."
"At Cobra Kai I've been working with Shane Roller. Joe Stevenson came in a few times and i was able to work with him."
Much like fighters such as Georges St. Pierre, Dunham enjoys working with a variety of different training partners. When I asked him if there was any training partner or coach who he wanted to single out specificially as being important in his career, Dunham wanted to thank everybody.
He did mention John Gunderson specifically as one of the guys who got him to move to Vegas when Gunderson was fighting for the IFL.
Dunham is also a student of the game who watches fights when he isn't fighting.
"I like watching BJ (Penn) a lot. Edgar is great. St. Pierre is great. I like watching all the lightweights because you never know who you're going to fight so I like to keep my eye on the division."
"There are a lot great 145ers in the WEC. I like to watch all of those guys. Anybody who has good ground I like to watch."
To get a sense of his fighting mentality, I asked him to comment on the fight between Rashad Evans and Rampage Jackson.
Although some thought the fight didn't live up to the hype, Dunham credited Evans for his strategy.
"I think if Rashad stood and banged with Rampage that he would have been playing right into Rampage's game. Not to say that it would have given Rampage the win, but Rashad knew that he was the better wrestler, and I think it was a very smart move."
"I think people expected them to go out and try to kill each other because of all the hype, but in reality that's not smart for a fighter. I kind of saw that fight coming, you know, and playing out the way it did."
Although he's a student of the game, Dunham does believe that he has his own unique style.
Dunham joins Rich Franklin and Lyoto Machida in an elite group of fighters who aren't naturally left handed but who have adopted a southpaw stance for fighting, although in Dunham's case, he's done so partly as a result of his wrestling background.
Nevertheless, his left hand has become a formidable weapon in his arsenal, as he used it to great effect against Per Eklund and Marcus Aurelio.
Speaking specifically upon his fight with Tyson Griffin, Dunham feels that it is a good matchup for him, and one that could propel him into the upper echelon of the UFC's lightweight division.
"I think I match up very well with Tyson Griffin. I know I'll be able to push just as hard as he does, and he's one of the guys at the top of the division I think I match up very well with."
"I've trained a lot with Tyson. I know Tyson really well. I know his style. He's a very familiar fighter. I don't think there will be too many surprises, but I expect him to come with a few tricks up his sleeve just like I will."
"I really don't think this is going to be a fight that plays out on the ground or the feet. I think it's going to hit the mat more than once, and I think there is going to be more than a few exchanges."
My overall impression from interviewing Evan Dunham is that he's not your typical fighter going out and partying like a rockstar. He's a dedicated martial artist intent on becoming the best.
As such, he doesn't say or do anything that's going to offend anybody, but just goes about his business of becoming a better fighter.
He's a level-headed guy, and about the only strange practice he's willing to admit to is a superstition that he never chooses his own entrance music.
"I'd just like to thank everybody who has been supporting me up to this point. I've been training my butt off down here in Vegas. I've put in a harder camp than I ever have before and I'm ready to take the next step up the ladder. So thanks to everybody who has been supporting me, and I hope that they'll continue to support me in the future."
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