UFC lightweight Evan Dunham (6-2, UFC) was a guest of MMA Fight Corner on Saturday and broke down his upcoming fight on the UFC 152 card at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada. Dunham is taking on TJ Grant (5-3, UFC) in Grant’s native Canada on September 22nd.
Dunham has been through a lot of adversity of his own in the past year. Just 24 days before UFC 146, injury kept him from fighting Edson Barbosa in May this year. He also had to face a new opponent in Nik Lentz on the UFC on FOX: Evans vs Davis card when he had originally prepared for Paul Sass.
Now healthy and set to start a new chapter in his fight career, Dunham is looking to get back on track. “I’m really excited. I feel great. I’ve had a good camp. I’ve got guys like Jay (Hieron) that are helping me out and have helped me out through tough times when I got injured and just keeping my mind straight,” said Dunham who trains at Xtreme Couture.
With UFC 151 bouts finding new homes, Evan is keeping his fingers crossed that his fight doesn’t get shifted off the main card of UFC 152, especially since Jon Jones vs Vitor Belfort’s title fight will now headline the card. “Not that I know [where his fight will land on the card], I’m really hoping it’s not. I’m really hoping that. But from what I know, it’s still the main card. I’m really happy that I’m back on the main card it took me a couple of fights to get back there after a tough loss. I’m just ready to go up to Canada, even though I’m fighting a Canadian. I may be boo’ed on the way in, but I’ll be cheered on the way out.”
The loss to Melvin Guillard set Dunham’s rise towards becoming a lightweight contender back. Dunham was first slated to fight Kenny Florian at UFC 125. Later, the fight was moved to headline UFC Fight for the Troops 2 on January 22, 2011. On December 6th, just 6 weeks before the fight, Florian announced he was injured and withdrew from the fight. He was replaced by striker Melvin Guillard. Without question, Dunham took on Guillard who possessed a completely different set of skills than Florian on short notice and lost the fight.
“Actually I was coming off of a loss, well I don’t consider it a loss. That’s a win in my book,” Dunham said of his loss to Sean Sherk prior to taking on Guillard. “I was supposed to fight Florian and I was really excited about that, and Guillard’s a completely different fighter. In my opinion, he’s a more dangerous fighter. My manager called me and said ‘This is what they want you to do’. It wasn’t like I had the option. It’s not ‘Are you gonna take the fight?’ It’s ok, this is who your fighting. And you just got to roll with the punches and I was happy to do that. It was a great opportunity for me to be the main event for the Fight for the Troops 2. And there was no way in the world I was going to pass that up. I would have fought whoever they would have put in front of me. What happened, happened I moved on from it and I think it made me a better fighter and I think it’s going to show on September 22nd.”
Dunham described his frame of mind about facing someone most fans may not be familiar with in TJ Grant. Though Grant has fought in the UFC since 2009, he was a featherweight for most of his career. This fight at 155 will only be Grant’s third time fighting in the division. “He’s a very tough opponent. He doesn’t have quite the name and a lot of people are saying,’Oh, TJ Grant. Who are you fighting?”
Despite what outsiders may think about Grant, Dunham is prepared for who he going up against. “He’s got great ground. I’ve fought guys with better ground than him, so I’m confident in that area. As far as his hands go, he’s got decent stand up. He’s a lot like me, he’s a well rounded guy. I think it’s going to be a great fight. I think we’re going to go in there, slug it out on the feet, somebody’s gonna take it to the mat and we’ll have some good scrambles on the ground. But as far as predictions, I’m gonna stop him in the third.”
As far as Grant not having a contender’s name in the UFC, Dunham’s not worried about where he stacks up in the division, he’s simply going out there to win. “I don’t read into that stuff too much, because that’s who they told me to fight and that’s who I’m going to fight.”
While Dunham hopes that a win can get him back to fighting top contenders, he’s has no intention of underestimating Grant’s abilities. “He’s a tough guy and I’m not overlooking him by any means. I was asking for a more name guy. I was asking for Pettis or Cerrone , but I didn’t get em,” Dunham stated. “They gave me TJ which I was happy to take because even if he’s not a name opponent, I think he’s going to give me a great fight. I think it’s going to be a great experience that we both remember and we both become better fighters from.”