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UFC 216 fight card: Beneil Dariush vs Evan Dunham preview

MMA: The Ultimate Fighter Finale-Lauzon vs Dunham Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight veterans Beneil Dariush and Evan Dunham will duel this Saturday (Oct. 7, 2017) at UFC 216 inside T-Mobile Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Dariush rose to the top of the division pretty quickly, but he also found out just how tough the 155-pound elite is. Splitting his last four fights evenly in wins and losses, Dariush will look to bounce back from one of the year’s best — or in his case, worst — knockouts. On the other hand, Dunham’s career resurgence and return to the Top 15 has largely been unexpected. He was a top prospect way back in 2010, but faltered, spending the next four years without finding consistent success. Since then, however, Dunham has put together four straight wins and looked better than ever.

Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for both men:

Beneil Dariush
Record: 14-3
Key Wins: Rashid Magomedov (UFC Fight Night 98), James Vick (UFC 199), Jim Miller (UFC on FOX 15)
Key Losses: Edson Barboza (UFC Fight Night 106), Michael Chiesa (UFC on FOX 19)
Keys to Victory: Dariush began his UFC career as a grappler first and foremost, but his Muay Thai grew quickly under the tutelage of Rafael Cordeiro. That’s all combined to produce an effective pressure game that allows Dariush to overwhelm his opponent with heavy kicks, transitional takedowns and slick submissions.

This is a really interesting style match up. Both come into this fight with Brazilian jiu-jitsu backgrounds, but have become skilled in all areas. It’s not clear who holds the advantage in what area, but they’re both well-rounded enough to switch it up as necessary.

For Dariush, it appears that his best strategy would be to keep the pressure on Dunham. Both fighters do their best work when moving forward, and Dariush should have the wrestling to at least keep it on the feet. If Dariush can walk his foe into the fence, his chances of scoring the takedown increase. With both men being so skilled on the mat, it’s hard to see a submission from the back for either man, so whoever lands the takedown is in great position to do damage and edge the fight.


Evan Dunham
Record: 16-6
Key Wins: Joe Lauzon (TUF 21 Finale), Gleison Tibau (UFC 156), Nik Lentz (UFC on FOX 2), Ross Pearson (UFC Fight Night 72)
Key Losses: Rafael dos Anjos (UFC on FX 8), Donald Cerrone (UFC 167), Edson Barboza (UFC Fight Night 45)
Keys to Victory: It’s pretty remarkable how similar these two fighters are. Like his opponent, Dunham is a Southpaw kickboxer with excellent jiu-jitsu who can hold his own in the wrestling department.

On paper, there are two advantages for Dunham. For one, he’s the better man in terms of combination punching. Recently, Dunham has done a great job of stringing together effective combos that consist of four plus punches and a kick or two. Dariush, meanwhile, tends to rely more on one big kick at a time and shorter combinations.

In a close fight, volume is often key.

Aside from that, Dunham is distinctly more durable. He’s been scrapping with heavy hitters for much of his career, and on the whole Dunham tends to stay upright in wars. That’s not to say Dariush is chinny, but he doesn’t quite thrive in blood-and-guts brawls like Dunham does.

Bottom Line: It’s going to be a great scrap between to Lightweights attempting to work into the Top 10.

There are definitely fighters in the Top 10 who Dariush could defeat. Hell, he was doing great with Barboza (No. 4) until the jump knee landed. In two fights, his opponent came back from a beating to suddenly finish him in spectacular fashion. Assuming he can avoid something similar here, Dariush is ready to compete with Top 10-ranked athletes once again.

If not, Dariush needs to figure out what’s going wrong, because he has some great skills.

As for Dunham, this is a definite step up in competition. It’s well-deserved, but it’s also a test of whether or not Dunham is truly a contender at 155 pounds. If Dunham can pull off the win, he’s on a five-fight win streak and should continue advancing up the ranks. Alternatively, a loss leaves him in something of a gatekeeper to the Top 10 position, and he’ll more than likely face off with an up-and-comer next time out.

At UFC 216, Beneil Dariush and Evan Dunham will open the main card. Which man will have his hand raised?

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