Surging lightweight eyes title shot with a win over Joe Lauzon
Melvin Guillard has always been viewed as a fighter with championship potential.
There have never been questions about his abilities. The tools he brings to the cage and the attributes he possesses are some of the very best in the division. It has been that way since Guillard first rose to prominence as a member of the cast on Season 2 of The Ultimate Fighter.
While his abilities inside the cage were never questioned, his decision-making both inside and outside of the cage are what gave people cause for concern.
After defeating Marcus Davis in the finale of TUF 2, Guillard went 2-2 over his next four fights in the Octagon. Following his loss to Joe Stevenson, he tested positive for cocaine and was handed an eight month suspension. When he return, Guillard was still more potential than polish, fighting on his emotions rather than skill, letting his temper getting the better of him in a loss to Rich Clementi.
Even after a three-fight winning streak placed him opposite Nate Diaz in the main event of Ultimate Fight Night 19, the lightning quick lightweight with powerful hands got ahead of himself, leaving his neck exposed as he shot in for a takedown. Diaz wasted little time in wrapping up the choke, and Guillard looked like he would never reach his true potential.
Fast forward two years and there isn’t a scarier competitor in the lightweight division than Melvin Guillard.
Unbeaten since losing to Diaz in Septmeber 2009, Guillard has made a rapid climb up the 155 pound rankings since being welcomed into the family as a part of Team Jackson under the watchful eyes of Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Where the narrative used to be about unfulfilled promise, it is increasingly becoming about Guillard realizing his potential and reach the heights many believe he was destined to attain all along. If some people still want to talk about the struggles of his past, Guillard is okay with that.
“I don’t mind that people still touch on stuff. For me, it’s a reminder,” explained the charismatic and candid 28-year-old. “Whether people come at me negative or whether it’s positive, I look at that I have people that actually care (for me) and want to make sure that I don’t go out and make the same mistakes again. It’s about me just going out and continuing to impress people. I don’t care if people still talk about my past — it is what it is. It’s about me staying focused on the task at hand.”
That task is to become the UFC lightweight champion. It has been Guillard’s sole mission since connecting with the team at Jackson’s, one that he hasn’t been shy about discussing in the past, and isn’t shy about discussing now either.
“I will be a world champion in the next couple months, and people expect you to carry yourself a certain way when you become a champion. I’m expecting to be a humble world champion. I’m going to continue to interact with my fans. I want to go out of my way to make people smile, like I do now. Nothing is going to change me. The belt isn’t going to change me, the money isn’t going to change me; Melvin’s going to be who he is. I kind of like the new Melvin; I like who I am today.”
Melvin isn’t the only one that likes the new Melvin either; a lot of people have been impressed with his development, and rightfully so.
In the four fights since moving his training to Albuquerque, Guillard has delivered a trio of dominant first-round stoppages, combined with a unanimous decision win over Jeremy Stephens that showed his maturation inside the cage. Where he used to rush in and try to fight fire with fire, Guillard picked his spots, using his speed to dart in and out, landing on Stephens while avoiding his power. Viewed in concert with his explosive finishes of Waylon Lowe, Evan Dunham, and Shane Roller, it’s the kind of performance that has many people believing a title reign could be in Guillard’s future.
Saturday night, Guillard faces Joe Lauzon, a fellow Ultimate Fighter alum coming off a very impressive win over Curt Warburton at June’s UFC on Versus event in Pittsburgh. While it wasn’t necessarily the fight he wanted, Guillard is focused on getting another victory, and getting his shot at the lightweight title, whenever it comes.
“The reason for me calling out Joe Lauzon, at the time, I wanted Jim Miller, but Ben Henderson beat me to that. I wanted to fight in Houston — I begged to fight in Houston — and that was a part of it. I knew Joe Lauzon was a very scrappy guy, he’s well-respected, and I didn’t want to fight someone that people were going to give me heat about.
“If they gave me some random new guy and I’m supposed to be a top contender, fans don’t like that. It’s about giving the fans what they want to see. A lot of fans think that’s actually a good fight for me because Joe is well-respected. I’m just glad I could give the fans a little something. I know its still not a top five contender, but I read the other day that I’m only at #6 anyway. It doesn’t matter whether I fight a top five or #10 or #20 — it’s all about just fighting tough fights.”
Lately, Guillard has been making even the tough fights look easy. Gone are the mental mistakes that led to his losses to Diaz and Clementi, the eschewing of abilities to fight on emotion and anger. As simplistic as it may sound, Guillard has grown up, and left the recklessness of youth behind. As far as Guillard is concerned, there is only one person who can beat him.
“The only person that can beat me is me beating myself; I’ve felt like that my whole life,” admitted Guillard. “In the past, you look at fights I’ve lost, it was fights I’ve made mistakes in or done something I wasn’t supposed to do in the cage, and it cost me the fight.
“Right now, no one can beat me at 155 but me beating myself. Me knowing that I’m that great of a fighter right now after 15 years of fighting, I think what put the stamp on it was coming, being a part of Jackson’s. The more I learn from different people, different coaches, and different teammates, I’m going to continue to be more dangerous in the future.
“I’m looking forward to capturing this belt in 2012, and I’m looking forward to holding on to it for a mighty long time. I will be a successful champion. I will defend that belt when I get it. First things first — I have to complete my task (Saturday). I have to go out and execute, do it in great fashion, and go tell the world why I’m the #1 contender.”
Guillard knows exactly how he plans to do that too.
“I never call which round, but I will knock out Joe Lauzon. I promise you.”