Evan Dunham decisioned Shamar Bailey at UFC Fight Night 25. | File Photo: Sherdog.com


Evan Dunham simply had more tools with which to work.

Dunham returned to the win column with a unanimous decision over “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 13 quarterfinalist Shamar Bailey at UFC Fight Night 25 on Saturday at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans. A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt who not long ago was ranked in the Top 10 at 155 pounds, Dunham (12-2, 5-2 UFC) utilized a polished, well-rounded striking game and excellent takedown defense in securing the nod from the judges, all three of which saw it 30-27 in his favor.

In a stellar performance, Dunham landed virtually at will throughout the 15-minute encounter and shut down Bailey’s takedowns, the most viable option in the Integrated Fighting Academy representative’s arsenal. Combinations from Dunham grew in intensity and volume as the fight deepened, as the 29-year-old Oregonian mixed in head kicks, straight lefts, right uppercuts and left hooks and attacked Bailey (12-4, 1-1 UFC) with constant and effective aggression. By round three, Bailey’s face was swollen from the punishment.

The victory put the brakes on a two-fight losing streak for Dunham, who rebounded nicely from defeats to former UFC lightweight champion Sean Sherk and surging 155-pound contender Melvin Guillard.

Vagner Rocha submitted “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 12 alum Cody McKenzie with a second-round rear-naked choke, as the 29-year-old Pablo Popovitch disciple recorded his first win inside the Octagon. McKenzie (12-2, 1-2 UFC) waved the white flag 3:49 into round two.

The two lightweights exchanged submission attempts throughout their matchup, and Rocha defended against McKenzie’s trademark guillotine without much difficulty. In the second round, the Alaskan succumbed to a takedown and freed himself from a brabo choke, but he eventually surrendered his back and found himself in full mount underneath a world-class Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. The end was near. Rocha (7-2, 1-1 UFC) showered him with punches, forced him back to his stomach and cinched the choke for the finish.

Undefeated St. Louis-based prospect Lance Benoist made a strong first impression, as he outpointed “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 7 alum Matt Riddle in his Octagon debut. Benoist (6-0, 1-0 UFC) swept the scorecards by matching 29-28 counts in the preliminary welterweight duel.

Benoist opened with a strong first round, as he stung Riddle with punches, reversed a takedown into full mount with a textbook kimura sweep and battered the 25-year-old Allentown, Pa., native with a barrage of punches and elbows from top position. Benoist exchanged second-round takedowns with Riddle and looked to improve his position despite the blood leaking from his visibly broken nose. He closed out the frame with more ground-and-pound, but his pace had slowed -- and noticeably so.

The third period belonged to Riddle (5-3, 5-3 UFC), who secured a takedown and attacked with knees to the body and elbows to the head. Blood was plentiful. He closed in top position as the fresher of the two, but Benoist’s two-round advantage proved too great a hurdle to clear.

American Top Team representative Ken Stone needed a little more than half a round to submit Donny Walker with a rear-naked choke in their bantamweight bout, as he rendered the 31-year-old veteran unconscious 2:40 into round one. The victory snapped a two-fight losing streak for Stone (10-3, 1-1 UFC).

Stone softened his opponent with knees from the clinch prior to securing a trip takedown. With that, the advantage was his. Elbows and punches followed, as Stone attached himself to Walker’s back as he stood near the cage. Soon after, Stone brought the bout back down to the canvas and cinched the rear-naked choke. Walker (15-8, 0-2 UFC) refused to tap out, rolled to his stomach and went limp.

Seth Baczynski File Photo


Baczynski tapped out Harvison.

“The Ultimate Fighter” Season 11 alum Seth Baczynski extended his winning streak to three fights, as he coaxed a second-round tapout from Clay Harvison with a rear-naked choke. Harvison asked out of the preliminary welterweight tilt 72 seconds into round two.

Baczynski (14-6, 1-1 UFC) struck his foe into retreat throughout a one-sided first round, as he landed knees, punches, kicks and elbows with regularity. With that, the table for victory was set. He backed up a few low kicks with a ringing right uppercut that sent Harvison (7-2, 1-1 UFC) to the floor early in the second round. Elbows and punches followed, as Baszynski forced his opponent to surrender his back. The choke came next, providing a decisive finish.

Former Shark Fights welterweight champion T.J. Waldburger won for the fifth time in six outings, as he submitted late replacement Mike Stumpf with a first-round triangle choke in a preliminary pairing at 170 pounds. The end came 3:52 into round one.

Stumpf (11-3, 0-1 UFC) immediately found himself on the defensive, as a low kick knocked him off balance and opened the door for Waldburger. The 23-year-old Texan capitalized, moved to Stumpf’s back and threatened with a rear-naked choke. The Jeff Curran understudy defended well and secured a brief reversal, though he ultimately wound up back on the mat. Later, a flying knee attempt failed and led to another takedown from Waldburger (14-6, 2-1 UFC). He moved to side control, tried for an armbar and then transitioned beautifully to a triangle for the finish.

Low kicks and superb takedown defense carried Strikeforce veteran Robert Peralta to a unanimous verdict over Mike Lullo in a preliminary featherweight bout. Peralta (15-3, 1-0 UFC), who has rattled off eight consecutive victories, swept the scorecards: 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28.

Peralta established his superiority right out of the gate, as he whipped out the kicks to Lullo’s legs, made him pay for attempted takedowns and floored him briefly with a body kick late in the first round. Lullo (8-3, 0-2 UFC) emerged from his corner in the second with visible signs of damage, sporting a hematoma on the left side of his head. Peralta showed no mercy, as he returned to attacking the inside and outside of his foe’s legs and scored effectively in close quarters.

Round three was more competitive, but Peralta, even though he succumbed to a few takedowns, largely shut down Lullo’s offense.

“The Ultimate Fighter” Season 13 alum Justin Edwards utilized a steady diet of takedowns, submission attempts and occasional strikes, as he captured a unanimous decision from Jorge Lopez in a preliminary welterweight matchup. All three judges scored it 29-28 for Edwards (7-1, 1-1 UFC), who halted Lopez’s 10-fight winning streak.

Edwards set the tone from the start with three first-round takedowns. He again worked the fight to the floor in the second, where he struck with more effect and eventually secured back control, racking up points with ground-and-pound from behind his opponent.

Lopez (11-2, 0-1 UFC) finally put his offense in gear in the third round, as he delivered a takedown of his own, mounted Edwards and later flattened out the Ohioan when turned to his stomach. However, the Wanderlei Silva protégé’s failure to finish it cost him, as he could not dig out from underneath the early deficit.

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