January 23, 2011

Dana White can't call Evan Dunham undefeated anymore.

Dunham came into the main event of Saturday night's UFC Fight for the Troops 2 event with an 11-1 record officially, but pretty much anyone who had their eyes open during Dunham's fight against Sean Sherk in September was aghast that the split decision went against him. White was among the most relentless in referring to Dunham as an unbeaten fighter. And if you're employed by the UFC and the big boss man says you're unbeaten, then you're unbeaten.

But not any longer. Melvin Guillard (27-8-2, 1 NC) made sure of that, using a refined combination of patience and explosiveness to hand Dunham a loss that no one is going to question. The end came just 2 minutes and 59 seconds in, with Guillard using straight punches and hard knees to put Dunham on the canvas, then connecting with a couple of more knees before referee Mario Yamasaki jumped in.

As the crowd of some 6,000 military men and women at Fort Hood in the small city of Killeen, Tex. stood and cheered, Guillard was quick to return the love. When TV announcer Joe Rogan stepped into the cage for an interview, Guillard ignored his first question and instead addressed the helicopter hangar full of soldiers. "I really want to say thank you so much for everything you guys do," he said. "My uncle was a four-star brigadier general in the Army, retired. I love you guys. And, you know, if I can come in here for under 15 minutes and give you guys a good show, I'm proud of myself."

He ought to be. Guillard was in command pretty much from start to brutal finish. He connected flush with a right to the face just 15 seconds into the bout, and immediately Dunham went in pursuit of a takedown. He got it, but not without a lot of work, and not without being on the receiving end of several hammer fists that foretold what was to come. Even after Dunham dragged Guillard into his office -- the mat, where Evan does his best work -- the fight didn't stay there for long. Within seconds, Guillard was back on his feet and pursuing Dunham with fists flying.

But Guillard, who has had an up-and-down career but has quietly won four straight fights and seven of eight, did not fall into the trap of chasing Dunham. He showed the patience you might expect of a Greg Jackson-trained fighter, methodically stalking Dunham and peppering him with punches and kicks. Eventually he dropped Dunham with another hard, lightning-fast right hand, and Dunham again went into takedown mode, paying the price by absorbing punches as Guillard simultaneously fended him off. A left uppercut loosened Dunham's grip, and a left knee sent him wobbling along the fence, ripe to be finished with the final flurry. The last knee Guillard threw appeared to connect to the face while Dunham was down, but he was already finished and Yamasaki swooped in to save him.

Talk about making the most of an opportunity. Guillard had got this bout only after Dunham's original opponent, Kenny Florian, was injured in training. Now Guillard wants another opportunity.

"I want my title shot," he said. "I'm the dark horse in this game, at '55. No disrespect to anybody in my weight class, but I am the best 155-pound fighter in the UFC."

A couple of guys who fought to an exciting draw on New Year's night, lightweight champion Frankie Edgar and undefeated Gray Maynard, might have something to say about that. So might WEC champ Anthony Pettis, who's waiting in line for his shot at the UFC belt. But Melvin Guillard is ready for anyone Dana White and Co. want to stand in front of him. "You keep lining them up," said Guillard, "I'll keep knocking them down."

Pro Bowl-Worthy Play of the Night: Neither of the NFL teams Matt Mitrione played for, the Giants or Vikings, is still alive in the playoffs. Nor is his former teammate at Purdue, Saints quarterback Drew Brees. So with no games to prepare for, Matt's old friends from the pro football world had some free time to watch the ex-defensive end pursue his second career. And if any tuned in, they saw an All-Pro performance. Mitrione took apart Tim Hague, a pretty tough guy, with an impressive show of fluid movement and strong, efficient striking, finishing with a straight left that put Hague on his back and led to a TKO stoppage at 2:59 of the first. Who would have guessed, from watching the "Meathead" antics of Mitrione on Season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter, that he could end up being the best heavyweight of the bunch? He's still a rung or two below Roy Nelson on that ladder, but Mitrione is climbing fast. And still goofy. "I would love to thank my hands for being so good," he said afterward. "Amen."

Jose, Can You See? Performance of the Night: When Dana White announced weeks ago that Mark Hominick, if he were to win Saturday night, would get the next shot at featherweight champion Jose Aldo, you didn't hear many gasps of awe and anticipation. Aldo has burst onto the scene like a dynamo, dominating everyone in his path, even sending the estimable Urijah Faber scampering to a different weight class. Could Hominick stand up to him? That's still an open question, but Hominick sure stated his case with a quick and easy TKO of George Roop. Hominick solved the puzzle of getting inside Roop's long reach with patience and precision, nailing his sometime training partner over and over and finally pouncing to end it at 1:28 of the first round. It was an impressive enough performance that a lot more people now are looking forward to April 30, when Hominick will challenge Aldo at UFC 129 in Toronto. "You just have to make statements with your performance, and I believe I did that tonight," said Hominck. "Jose is next. I believe he's best pound for pound, but he's never faced anyone like me, and I'm going to go out there and prove it."

Low Blows of the Night: No, not the two knees to the groin that Joey Beltran delivered to Pat Barry in the first round of their slugfest, the first one missed by Yamasaki, the second one hurting all the more as a result. That pain was nothing (easy for me to say, eh?) compared to what Barry dished out with about a minute left in his unanimous-decision win. After hobbling Beltran with a relentless three-round assault of kicks to the left thigh, Barry sent the big guy to the canvas with a robust kick that buckled Beltran's leg. Barry then seized top position and began punching away -- not to Beltran's face, though, but to his tenderized left thigh. From Beltran's reaction, he might have preferred a punch to the nose.

Pre-Fight of the Night: Cole Miller and Mike Wiman sure got the Spike telecast off to an exhilarating start -- and that was just during the introductions. The two were housemates during Season 5 of The Ultimate Fighter and have remained friends, but they chose an interesting way to show it in the moments before the fight, yapping across the cage at each other as they each paced back and forth with a let-me-at-him edginess. Their unfriendly banter nearly drowned out Bruce Buffer's bellowing -- OK, that's an exaggeration; the Army could have started the engines of every aircraft at Fort Hood, and the blustery Buffer would have been heard above the collective decibels. But Wiman and Miller did get everyone on the edges of their seats ... until the fight settled into a surprisingly one-sided three rounds. It was all Wiman, all the time, and a unanimous-decision win. Afterward, Wiman was still talking. This time, though, he spoke in a friendlier manner, telling Joe Rogan that he'd left his TV on at home so his animals could watch him fight. Then he looked into the camera -- and presumably into the eyes of his pets at home -- and said, "What's up, guys? I love you." Now that's talking.

Good Cause of the Night: Throughout the telecast Spike put up on the screen a website URL where viewers could go to donate to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, which aids soldiers injured in combat and their families. It's fightforthetroops.com, which even with the fight night now over will continue to accept donations. There's also an auction at the website, featuring cool items such as a private training session with Randy Couture and Forrest Griffin, and the bidding remains open until 7 p.m. Sunday. The first Fight for the Troops event, in 2008, raised more than $4 million, and the UFC is aiming even higher this time. "We truly appreciate the sacrifices the men and women of our armed forces make on a daily basis," said Dana White, "and it's important for us to show our support with events like this."

Innovation of the Night: Maybe my Internet connection was too slow or my laptop too ancient, but for whatever reason my viewing of the prelim fights on Facebook was not exactly non-stop action. For me, those two fights took on the look of the stop-motion special effects used in the old Gumby claymation cartoons. But that's OK. I like Gumby. And I like the forward thinking of the UFC. From perusing the comments on the organization's Facebook fan page, it seems clear that MMA reached a new audience, and isn't that what it's all about? Yet as obviously win-win as this innovation was, could you imagine Bob Arum putting fights from a boxing undercard on Facebook? Do you think Bob even owns a computer?

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