It doesn’t matter if it’s boxing, wrestling submission grappling or tennis for that matter; there something uniquely about a showdown between two highly regarded athletes that can not be denied. This is evening’s UFC Fight Night 20 tussle between Efrain Escudero and Evan Dunham is one such bout.
Sporting an unblemished record of 13-0 during his professional career in mixed martial arts, Escudero is widely viewed as the golden boy of the UFC’s 155 pound division. The lightweight winner of the eighth season of Spike TV‘s The Ultimate Fighter, Efrain recently complimented his TUF championship in a UFC 103 mugging of American Top Team’s Cole Miller.
While Dunham hasn’t had nearly as much spotlight time as Escudero up to this point in his career, the Xtreme Couture trained submission specialist has quietly built himself up an impressive 9-0 resume, with recent UFC victories over the Per Eklund and Marcus Aurelio.
As the saying goes, “Someone’s 0 has got to go”, and only one of these two fast rising lightweight prospects will walk away undefeated this evening.
FiveOuncesofPain.com recently had the chance to catch up with both fighters just prior to their Fight Night showdown tonight, and needless to say, both Dunham and Escudero possess the utmost respect for one another.
“Evan Dunham is undefeated for a reason,” explained Efrain in this exclusive conversation with Five Ounces. “He goes out there to put on a show, and just fights. We have studied his tapes, but there’s not much to study. He’s a southpaw with a big right hand. There’s not much to him. He has a strong right and he’s an Oregon State wrestling champion, and that’s it.”
Dunham shared Escudero’s sentiments in many ways when 5 Oz. had the opportunity to gather his thoughts on the match-up.
“I think Efrain’s a talented guy, and he’s obviously pretty tough,” said Dunham. “I never really watched the show he was on because it’s on when I’m usually training, but I’ve seen a couple of those fights and he’s a tough kid. He’s got good wrestling, and he seems like he’s got a good all around knowledge of the game. In my opinion, he’s just your typical good wrestler that turned to MMA, he’s got some good submissions and he wings the punches. If he catches you with a good punch in the right spot you’re going to be in trouble, but there’s nothing that I have seen on any of his tapes or have heard from any of the guys he has trained with that had me changing any part of my game plan or anything like that.”
You’ll get no argument from either combatant as to whether or not their foe this evening is worthy of standing on the other side of the Octagon as them, and furthermore, both fighters can also agree on the fact that they contain a mutual respect for one another. However, all of that respect will be left outside of the Octagon fencing in Fairfax, Virginia. Yet another topic the similar styled up and comers can to see eye to eye on.
“I respect Evan as a person and I respect him as a fighter, but when we step into the Octagon only one man will leave the cage undefeated, and the other guy is going home with a loss,” said Escudero.
Giving an almost identical response to an unrelated question during our conversation was Dunham, stating, “Efrain has to be respected, and that’s exactly what I do. I always respect my opponents enough to train my ass off, but as soon as we’re standing across from one another in the Octagon, all of that respect goes out the door.”
The scouting reports on the pair are almost identical: Both guys are solid wrestlers with technical submission games, and both possess heavy hands. So what gives between the two? According to Efrain it will come down to his ability to take the fight anywhere he’d like.
“I think one of my major advantages is going to be that people don’t know what my game plan is,” explained Escudero. “I can take him down or I can knock him out. I’ve trained my wrestling to have it at a peak point. We saw in Rashad Evans’ last fight with Thiago Silva: His wrestling was the dominant factor in that bout.”
When told about Efrain’s belief that his wrestling ability would enable him to control the action in this evening’s bout, Dunham respectfully agreed to disagree with that statement, saying, “I don’t think so. If it was straight wrestling and we were both wearing singlets in the middle of a circled mat, and we touch our hands and go for the takedown, then yeah, he’d probably beat me in a wrestling match. But as far as wrestling goes in MMA, I don’t think he is because you have to add in the punches, the knees, and everything.
“I think that people that aren’t that familiar with my past fights think that he’s going to have a big advantage in the wrestling department, but anyone that has seen me fight before aren’t ruling me out by any means. I don’t think I’m the underdog in this fight, but I think that some people do. There are definitely a lot more people that have been exposed to him because of his appearance on The Ultimate Fighter, but I think that’s all it is. Some might think that he’s going to have the upper hand, but I know otherwise.”
Either way you slice it, both of these undefeated crowd pleasers are unquestionably overflowing with confidence heading into a match-up that promises to separate the contender, from the pretender.
“I’ve pushed myself to the limit preparing for this fight and I doubt that Evan Dunham can put me in situations I haven’t been in before,” said Escudero in closing.
“I’m going to be comfortable wherever this fight goes,” finished Dunham. “If he wants to stand with me: Cool, we’ll stand. If he wants to take the fight to the ground and he’s actually successful in getting it to the ground: Even better. I know my Jiu-Jitsu is better than he is, and also, I’d like to see him try to hold me down, because I really don’t see that happening.”