Yes, the business of using Daring + Passion for defense does tend to be counterintuitive. The key to remember here is that Passion is usually about emotion and the like. But something else to remember is that a lot of times in the John Carter stories, damage is more often psychological than it is physical. Or so it has seemed to me.
When it comes down to it, attacking and defending have a simple base. For the attack, no reason to get away from the Cunning + Daring for physical melee and the Cunning + Reason for the physical ranged attacks. I could see a physical attack using a different Attribute with Cunning, depending on the attacker’s Talents and whether they’re approach the attack from an emotional point of view, one of strength or will, and so forth.
Defense, on the other hand, very much should start with Daring, as movement of some sort will always be involved. The second Attribute, on the other hand, would and should vary based on how the defender is approaching their defense. Someone who is physically strong might use Might, someone who tends to fight deviously would use Cunning, and so forth.
The key here is that it isn’t really intuitive to take physical weapon damage to Fear or Confusion, though that sort of thing tends to happen in literary fiction more often than having the target take enough damage to maim the hero. Same is true in the John Carter books… I think that going forward I might house rule that a character has to take at least half the damage from a physical attack with a weapon of any kind to the Injury stress track. It’ll be interesting to see how that shakes out.