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Las Vegas teammates Tyson Griffin, Evan Dunham will be familiar foes at UFC 115

Xtreme Couture lightweights put partnership on hold for chance to move up ladder

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Sam Morris

Tyson Griffin listens to trainer Neil Melanson while working out at Xtreme Couture Gym in preparation for his fight at UFC 115.

UFC 115 - Tyson Griffin Workout

Tyson Griffin works out at Xtreme Couture Gym in preparation for his fight at UFC 115. Launch slideshow »

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Although Tyson Griffin admits he felt no hesitation when agreeing to fight Xtreme Couture teammate Evan Dunham at UFC 115, it wasn't because he's willing to put relationships on the line for the sake of his career.

In fact, Griffin is very clear in his stance that he'd never fight family — it's just that Dunham isn't family.

"There's a big difference between close teammates and just training partners," Griffin said. "(Evan) decided to come and use our camp and train here, but at the same time he's not somebody I hang out with outside of the gym."

The lightweight fight between Griffin and Dunham, which will be broadcast on Spike TV, could turn into a chess match Saturday. The two will have a pretty good idea of what to expect, having worked together ever since Dunham joined the Xtreme Couture camp more than a year ago.

So far the relationship appears to be benefitting both — Griffin (14-2) is coming off wins over Rafael Dos Anjos and Hermes Franca while Dunham has continued to build on his undefeated record, which now stands at 10-0.

Because of their coinciding success, Dunham says it wasn't a shock that the UFC matched them together, as each is looking to take the next step up the lightweight ladder.

"I kind of saw it was a possibility," Dunham said. "I wouldn't have guessed it, but it wasn't a huge surprise when I heard it. More than anything, I was actually just happy about being put up against a guy at his level. It's a compliment."

Before accepting the fight, Dunham actually called Griffin to make sure his teammate wouldn't feel disrespected and even volunteered to take a leave of absence from Xtreme Couture and prepare elsewhere.

To deal with the change, Dunham added an extra two weeks to his normal training camp just to give himself time to get comfortable in his new atmosphere. He ended up splitting time between four gyms in Las Vegas, seeking out the help of Shawn Tompkins at Tapout and Marc Laimon at Cobra Kai.

"It was tough at first. I really used the first few weeks of my camp just figuring out where I want to be," Dunham said. "The hardest part was the mental aspect, knowing I had a good group of guys that had helped me prepare well for my last fights. That's tough, but at the same time I don't think it's been that big of an issue."

As familiar as the two might be with one another at practice, Griffin says Dunham may not recognize him when the two meet in the octagon in Vancouver, Canada.

After suffering a rib injury that forced him to pull out of a January fight against Jim Miller, Griffin reinvented himself by studying the holes in his game and working himself into the leanest physique of his career.

In addition to the changes in his game, Griffin says there's a big difference between the way he trains and the way he fights — a change Dunham might not be ready for.

"I think one of my biggest strengths when it comes to this situation is that I might be a little too nice in the gym," Griffin said. "I don't like to hurt my training partners. If I land a punch and he's rocked, I'm not going to jump on him.

"I think one thing he might be surprised with is how mean I am in the cage as opposed to how I am in the gym."

Following this weekend, Dunham has said his plans are to return to Xtreme Couture to continue to build his game and Griffin says he and the gym will welcome him back.

And even though they both expect to work together again in the future, don't expect either one to pass up the opportunity to end the fight.

"I don't think that's going to be an issue for Tyson and I," Dunham said. "I know for a fact neither of us are going to hold anything back. I'll be hitting him with everything I've got and I know it won't be a factor him either. We'll be looking to put it on one another."

Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or [email protected].

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