UFC lightweight Evan Dunham said he alone is responsible for the outcome of his fight against Sean Sherk this past Saturday at UFC 119.
After taking it to the former champion in the bout’s latter half, Dunham came up short on scorecards and suffered a split-decision loss at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
While he questions the result and believes the fight could be used as a case study for judging, you won’t see Dunham complaining about the system.
“What all this comes down to is that it’s my fault that I lost because I didn’t finish him”. “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.”
Other than the massive gash he took above his right eye in the first frame of the main-card bout, Dunham (11-1 MMA, 4-1 UFC) is healthy and ready to move on with his career, whether that means a rematch with Sherk (34-4-1 MMA, 8-4 UFC), a former lightweight champion, or a new challenge.
“The only thing broken is my heart,” he said. “But I’ll fix that.”
It’s actually Dunham’s fourth loss in mixed martial arts since he began his career in 2004 at a rollers-kating arena in Springfield, Ore. He went 5-3 as an amateur competitor and counts losses by decision, submission and knockout among the experiences he used to grow as a fighter.
This past Saturday’s loss was Dunham’s first professional setback and came after four consecutive UFC wins that put him on many observers’ watch list for future contenders.
Sherk’s split-decision win was booed generously by the night’s 16,000 attendees. UFC president Dana White decried the judges’ ruling afterward and awarded both Sherk and Dunham $70,000 “Fight of the Night” bonuses, one of two fights to receive the honor on UFC 119’s card.
“Get back in the gym, train my ass off, correct the mistakes I made, and go win some damn fights,” Dunham said of the steps he’ll take to bounce back.
The Eugene, Ore. native also said he plans to bank the extra check instead of splurging.
“I don’t reward a loss,” Dunham said. “I learned from those losses, and I’m going to learn from this one. This loss isn’t going to hurt me in the long run. It’s just going to make me stronger and more hungry and more determined.”
Sherk, who returned to the cage after a 16-month injury layoff, took the fight to the ground in the fight’s first frame and sliced Dunham open with an elbow, though the up-and-comer said the UFC’s cageside cut-man did an excellent job of preventing the gash from bleeding into his eye.
Dunham said he got suckered into attempting to submit Sherk while on the ground and quickly realized things were not going his way.
“I had a conversation with myself really quickly there on the mat,” he said. “Once I decided to get up, there was no keeping me down. But by then, he’d already split me open, and he took that first round decisively.”
After Sherk spent more than half the second round attempting to complete another takedown, Dunham managed to free himself to engage on the feet.
That’s where his questions about judging emerge.
“In the first two-and-a-half or three minutes (of the second round), he was basically pushing me against the fence to draw the thing out and show control,” Dunham said. “But how good is that in trying to finish a fight? Is that effective in trying to put your opponent away? Or is the two minutes of striking more effective? It depends on what you think is more (effective).”
Sherk told Dunham he had the makings of a champion in the cage following the fight, and White sent a Twitter message claiming the fight was a robbery. Dunham, however, said he takes nothing away from Sherk’s performance.
“It’s one of these fights that’s very open to interpretation,” he said. “I think I won the fight. Do I think it was really, really close? Yes, I do. But whatever.”
Meanwhile, he plans to return to the gym in a few weeks to close the gaps in his game. If the UFC has a rematch in mind, he’s game for a second meeting with “The Muscle Shark.” If not, he’s happy fighting another name opponent.
“Sherk is a great guy,” Dunham said. “He 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.
“I think the fans really enjoyed the fight and would like to see it again. But I’m not going to ask for that because I don’t want to be one of those guys who’s whining and complaining after a loss.”
We all know who really one that fight, it’s sad that the judgescan’t really see.