By Thomas Gerbasi
FAIRFAX, VA, January 11 –Unbeaten but unheralded Evan Dunham scored the biggest win of his young UFC career Monday night at the Patriot Center, moving to 3-0 in the organization with a come from behind third round submission victory over The Ultimate Fighter season eight winner Efrain Escudero, who suffered his first pro defeat in the UFC Fight Night co-feature.
The fight started at a fast pace, but neither fighter landed anything of consequence. That all changed in the second half of the frame, when a knee to the head by Escudero (13-1) rocked Dunham. The Oregon prospect looked to clear his head, but Escudero kept firing off punches, eventually dropping his foe with a right hand. Escudero went in to finish, but Dunham (10-0) recovered quickly and almost locked up a triangle choke. Escudero got free and responded with a guillotine attempt, but that was foiled as well.
Dunham began to find his range with his own strikes in the second round, and he kept tagging Escudero as he waded in. With a little over two minutes left, Dunham scored a takedown and then added more points with ground strikes before getting Escudero’s back in the final minute, capping off a huge round with more punches.
With the bout up for grabs, Dunham came out fast for the final round, maybe a little too fast, as he got caught in a guillotine choke. After some tense moments, Dunham escaped, the two rose, and Dunham got a takedown. Escudero tried to escape, but Dunham wasn’t about to let him free, eventually locking in a tight armbar. Escudero tried to find his way free, but it wasn’t happening, and he was forced to tap out at 1:59 of the final round.
Lawlor vs. Simpson
Middleweight Aaron Simpson kept his perfect record intact the hard way, surviving a full-on first round striking assault from Tom Lawlor to battle back and earn a razor-thin three round split decision victory.
The scores of 29-28 twice, and 28-29 for Simpson were greeted with boos by the fans, who were firmly in Lawlor’s corner from the moment he entered the Octagon to Hulk Hogan’s old WWF theme song. But both fighters did themselves proud in this memorable 15 minute scrap.
The two 185-pound prospects immediately engaged, and it was Lawlor who was surprisingly winning the striking battle, as he repeatedly rocked Simpson. As the round progressed, he kept the pressure on, and while Simpson’s head was in the fight, it was obvious that his legs were not. Lawlor, cautiously aggressive, continued to press the action, but he refused to get reckless.
Looking to turn the tide, Simpson went back to basics, taking Lawlor down in the second minute. Lawlor battled back to his feet, and got a brief takedown of his own before pinning Simpson against the fence. After breaking, Simpson stalked, and the two locked up again. After separating, Simpson got off a few hard shots, but it was Lawlor who ended the round with a guillotine choke attempt.
The third began with more standup exchanges before the two locked up against the fence. Simpson pushed the action, but Lawlor remained dangerous throughout. Midway through the round, Simpson started to take control, eventually sinking his hooks in from the back with under two minutes left. With nothing going on there, Simpson let him loose, but continued to take command against the tired Lawlor, yet the two still finished the fight with a brief flurry.
With the win, Simpson improves to 7-0; Lawlor falls to 6-2, 1 NC
Sadollah vs. Blackburn
With the packed house roaring, Richmond’s Amir Sadollah delivered for his hometown fans, showing off an impressive array of striking skills both standing and on the ground en route to a three round unanimous decision win over veteran ‘Bad’ Brad Blackburn in the welterweight main card opener.
All three judges saw it 30-27 for Sadollah.
After a rousing cheer from his hometown crowd, Sadollah got right down to business, using front kicks to keep Blackburn off –balance and susceptible to his other strikes. Blackburn stayed as close as he could, and he kept throwing throughout the round, but in the final minute, he got rocked by a straight left-uppercut combination. Sadollah moved in for the finish, but strangely went for a takedown instead of trying to end matters on the feet.
By the end of the first round, Blackburn had his legs back, and he went on the offensive again in the second, briefly putting Sadollah on the mat in the third minute. Much of the ensuing action was spent against the fence, with each man having his moments. And the same held true when they traded in the center of the Octagon, with Sadollah holding a slight edge.
Early in the final round, Sadollah again rocked Blackburn, this time with a knee. Sadollah took his foe down and landed with hard strikes before walking him to the fence for another strong rally. By this time, Blackburn was holding on and hoping for a re-start, but Sadollah’s busy attack kept that from happening, sealing the victory in the process.
With the win, Sadollah ups his record to 4-1; Blackburn falls to 15-10-1, 1 NC.