I understand what you mean. Well, one thing is certain : You won't be able to overclock an i3. Then again, an overclocked Phenom will perform pretty much like a stock i3, the latter needing no extra cpu cooler or going through the hassle of achieving an interesting clock speed.
You might have already read this article, but if not it might prove interesting to you.http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/gaming-fx-pentium-apu-benchmark,3120.html
You'll see the the 980 and 955 (only a few mhz slower than a 965) getting outpeformed a lot of times by an i3 and even a Pentium. You might not read through every segments of the benchmarks but the conclusion does a good job of explaining the important parts.