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Dunham looks for fourth UFC win in a row at UFC 115

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The Canadian Press
6/9/2010 6:49:00 PM
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UFC fighters traditionally get four free tickets to their bout but lightweight Evan Dunham goes above and beyond when it comes to his father.

The 28-year-old had his dentist dad as one of his cornermen in his last two fights. And Robert Dunham will be cageside again Saturday night when Evan takes on training partner Tyson Griffin at UFC 115 in Vancouver (available on pay-per-view).

"You get three cornermen and I really don't need more than two guys yelling at me at once," Evan Dunham explained. "I figured I'll put him in, give him one of the best seats in the house."

The Dunham corner this weekend will feature coaches Shawn Yarborough and Ben Baxter and Dunham Sr.

"He just sits back and enjoys it," Dunham said of his dad. "I think he's getting more vocal supporting-wide but he just kind of sits back and lets my cornermen do their job. He's just there for support more than anything."

Dunham (10-0) has largely flown under the radar despite UFC wins over Efrain Escudero, Marcus Aurelio and Per Eklund.

An accomplished jiu-jitsu fighter -- he got his black belt from Wellington (Megaton) Dias earlier this year -- Dunham was told by some that a win over Escudero in January might earn him some attention.

Dunham did his part, submitting the winner of Season 8 of "The Ultimate Fighter" in the third round. So did the spotlight find him?

Not so much, said Dunham.

"All I can do it keep winning and hope people take notice," he added.

A victory over Griffin (14-2 including 7-2 in the UFC) should help that goal. The only UFC fighters to beat Griffin are Sean Sherk and Frankie Edgar, who have both held the lightweight title.

That's what attracted Dunham to the fight.

"Tyson, in my opinion, is a top-tier fighter in the UFC, one of the guys who could definitely have a title shot here real soon," said Dunham, a native of Eugene, Ore., who moved to Las Vegas three months ago.

And this time, there should be plenty of eyes on the fight. The UFC is airing it on Spike TV (9 p.m. ET) in the leadup to the pay-per-view. The other bout scheduled for free TV pits lightweight Mac Danzig against (Handsome) Matt Wiman.

The UFC clearly hopes for some fireworks on TV. The goal is to schedule a couple of entertaining fights on Spike to convince viewers to dig into their picket for the pay-per-view.

There will be few secrets between Dunham and Griffin, who have both called the Xtreme Couture gym in Las Vegas home.

Dunham wasn't too fazed about having to fight a training partner.

"I didn't really think too much into it besides I was going to have to find some different places to train at for the camp, because he didn't want to share the same gym for the fight.

"Overall I thought it was great because Tyson's very talented and he's a high-level fighter."

Dunham split his time between the Throwdown Training Center, Tapout Training Center, Marc Laimon's Cobrai Kai Jiu-Jitsu and Legion Jiu-Jitsu.

Because of his training time with Griffin, Dunham expects "limited" surprises Saturday.

"At the same time, I think we'll both going to have a couple of tricks up our sleeve but overall we both know each other's strengths."

The two get on in the gym, but don't hang out together outside of training.

"He's a great guy," Dunham said of the 26-year-old Griffin. "I've never had any problems with him."

Dunham plans to return to Xtreme Couture after the fight, but keep some of the new coaches.

Danzig also trains at Xtreme Couture and knows both Dunham and Griffin.

"Evan is really, really good," he said. "He's an excellent fighter, but the thing is he's a really good jiu-jitsu fighter and it is so hard to play a jiu-jitsu game against Tyson. He's just incredibly hard to hold down, he's incredibly hard to put positions on

"You might end up seeing a lot of standup in that one. I don't known what's going to happen, they're pretty evenly matched. I wish they didn't have to fight each other but it should be fun one to watch."

Just five foot six, Griffin has legs like tree trunks and some junk in his trunk. The five-foot-10 Dunham is long and lean.

A former wrestler who switched to jiu-jitsu in 2000 when he went to the University of Oregon, Dunham turned pro in 2007.

"I always wanted to fight but never looked at it as a full-time career until after I had graduated college (in 2004)," said Dunham, who got a BA in sociology and minored in business.

He kept a full-time job installing computers and network systems for medial and dental offices in Oregon until he signed with the UFC.

His boss, an MMA fan, then told him to "get out of here and focus on your career. That's exactly what I did."

Dunham has made the most of his UFC opportunity, starting as a late replacement against Per Eklund at UFC 95 in London in February 2009.

He won that fight by first-round TKO -- flooring the Swede with a straight left -- and then took a split decision over veteran Marcus Aurelio at UFC 102 last August in his native Oregon. Aurelio had stepped in for the injured Matt Veach.

Dunham rallied from a tough first round in January to submit Escudero early in the third.

"I don't think I came out and performed like I should have on my feet in the first round. I was just too lackadaisical and didn't come out ready to go," he said. "He definitely took advantage of that"

Dunham is a non-nonsense sort. He doesn't have a nickname, figuring he'll probably end up with the right one in due time.

And he doesn't concern himself with his walk-in music.

"I trust the DJs. They know music probably better than I do so I leave that up to them. I don't hear it coming out. I just say 'hey just play something decent and I'll be there."'

But he has supreme confidence in his abilities and shows it in the cage, gesturing to the veteran Aurelio to bring it on.

A win over Griffin and he'll welcome the attention.

"Flying under the radar is definitely not by choice," he said.

Evan Dunham (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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