It was a big step up the UFC lightweight ladder for Evan Dunham. He slipped off a few rungs along the way but it looked like he'd done enough to pass Sean Sherk with a big win. But the two of the three judges didn't see it that way. Dunham closed the final two minutes of the fight in very strong fashion. The crowd was amped and ready to cheer a Dunham win but Sherk was given a split decision victory, 29-28, 28-29 and 29-28, at UFC 119 in Indianapolis.
Sherk (34-4-1, 8-4 UFC) went back to his bread and butter wrestling game. He worked for takedowns throughout the first and second round. He scored four of them but was also in several submission predicaments. A gracious Dunham (11-1) questioned his execution.
"Coming into this fight it was my goal not to go for those just cause I know he's a really tough guy. I've seen lots of guys threaten that and never finish," Dunham told UFC analyst Joe Rogan. "I think I made a mistake by even going for them. I think I should've just tried to just stuff the shots a little more. I think I could've done better in that first round. It is what it is and I'll improve."
Sherk was able to steal the first round when he ripped open a nasty cut over Dunham's right eye with 44 seconds left. The blood poured from Dunham's head all over his chest and the mat. It had to leave a big impression on the judges.
But it didn't deter Dunham who kept coming at Sherk the rest of the way. The fight seemed to turn in the middle of the second. Dunham's length was a huge advantage against the 5-foot-6 Sherk. He landed three-punch combinations, kicks and a few big knees. At the end of the second, the 37-year-old Sherk appeared to be tiring. A rarity for a guy who's got a reputation as a cardio machine.
It got worse for him in the third round. Sherk was dropped to a knee after absorbing a nasty head kick at the start of the round. In the final two minutes, Sherk had the snot beaten out him. He absorbed combos and some more knees.
Two judges thought Sherk did enough to win. Kelvin Caldwell had it 29-28 for Dunham while veteran judges Cecil Peoples and Glenn Trowbridge each scored it 29-28 for Sherk. The guess here is that Peoples will be a punching bag this week on MMA message boards. He's been on the wrong side of a few controversial decisions.