It's the rising star against the veteran looking to make an unexpected rise to the top when Evan Dunham meets Melvin Guillard in the main event of UFC Fight Night 23: "Fight for the Troops 2," which will air live tonight (Sat., Jan. 22, 2011) at 9 p.m. ET on Spike TV from the Fort Hood Army Base in Killeen, Texas.
For Dunham, a win this evening continues his rise to a potential lightweight title shot in later this year or early next. Despite his recent UFC 119 split decision loss to Sean Sherk, UFC president Dana White still considers Dunham to be an undefeated fighter, as many did not agree with the decision that night in Indianapolis, feeling Dunham clearly won the bout.
Dunham originally was scheduled to face two-time UFC lightweight title contender Kenny Florian in this fight, but Florian was scratched because of a knee injury in early December. Guillard was promoted from his preliminary bout with Yves Edwards to the main event shortly thereafter.
A heavy favorite heading into the fight, Dunham will have to deal with the heavy hands of the upstart Guillard, a man who has quietly compiled a 5-1 record in his most recent stint in the UFC, most recently defeating Jeremy Stephens by split decision at UFC 119.
After the jump, it's our preview of the main event. It's Evan Dunham against Melvin Guillard, live on Spike TV on Saturday night from Fort Hood, Texas.
Check it out:
Record: 11-1 overall, 4-1 UFC
Key loss: Sean Sherk (UFC 119)
How he got here: A well-rounded fighter with much potential, Evan Dunham rose from prospect status to the next level in 2010, compiling a 2-1 record in three fights. He started the year by submitting Efrain Escudero with a nasty armbar at UFC Fight Night 20, followed that with a dominant split decision win over Tyson Griffin at UFC 115 and ended it with an impressive performance in a split decision loss against former lightweight champion Sean Sherk at UFC 119.
Even with the loss, Dunham's stock rose significantly and he now is being looked at as a fighter who can make a big impact in the division. In that fight, Dunham also showed he was able to fight back from adversity as Sherk opened up a large cut that bled heavily. Instead of retreating, Dunham got stronger.
The UFC has taken the correct steps to make sure Dunham's progress hasn't been halted by getting "too much, too soon." Dunham has seen his competition level go up almost like a staircase. Each opponent has been better than the last. That arguably ends in this fight, although the intention was for Dunham to take another step forward against Kenny Florian. In 2009, Dunham went undefeated (2-0) in the UFC, stopping Per Eklund at UFC 95 and taking a split decision from Marcus Aurelio.
How he gets it done: Dunham has skills both standing and on the ground, but the Xtreme Couture fighter lit a tired Sherk up on the feet, but was unable to find the right combination to stop the veteran. Still, Dunham was able to hurt Sherk on multiple occasions and came close to stopping him with a guillotine choke on a few occasions. For his career, Dunham holds six wins by submission, three by decision and two by technical (knockout). Dunham has two wins each by rear-naked choke, guillotine choke and armbar, showing he has a nice arsenal of submissions at his disposal.
Record: 26-8-2 (1 NC) overall, 8-4 UFC
How he got here: At 27 years old, Melvin Guillard is not only younger than Dunham, but holds a large experience edge. Competing in MMA since 2002, Guillard fought professionally 24 times before getting the call to be a cast member on "The Ultimate FIghter 2." Guillard's UFC tenure has been interesting to say the least. His first loss came at the hands of a badly, badly cut Josh Neer at UFC Fight Night 3 via triangle choke, setting a pattern that would haunt Guillard throughout his tenure: Each of his four UFC losses have come by submission, three in the first round.
"The Young Assassin," however, has remained relevant with some devastating knockouts and has finished two opponents with shots to the body. Guillard currently is on the second three-fight win streak of his UFC career, having bested Ronys Torres, Waylon Lowe and Jeremy Stephens during that time. Guillard is 5-1 in this his second UFC tenure with the only loss coming to Nate Diaz.
How he gets it done: Guillard is a powerful striker but has drawn the ire of some for conservative game plans in recent fights. In 2010, he went to two decisions (against Torres and Stephens). To get the job done against Dunham, he's really going to have to let loose. Of his 26 wins, 16 have come by technical (knockout), eight by decision and two by submission, although he has not submitted anybody in more than seven years. Of his eight losses, seven have come by submission and one by decision. Guillard has never been stopped with strikes. His game plan against Dunham has to be to avoid the takedown and throw heavy leather. He cannot let Dunham get comfortable.
Fight "X-Factor:" In another "believe it not" stat, this is Guillard's third UFC main event fight. Although he's winless (0-2) in those fights, he's been there. Dunham cannot say the same thing. Can Dunham handle the pressure that comes with being a main eventer? Time will tell, but, as the Magic 8-Ball would say, "signs point to yes."
Bottom line: Guillard struggles against strong submission grapplers and that's exactly what Dunham is. Still, Dunham has not faced a striker as powerful as Guillard. Though seeing Dunham battle through a bad cut against Sherk and still operate with high efficiency tells me he would be able to mentally handle a pounding should one be administered.
If Dunham can get Guillard to the ground, though, he holds a big advantage, as Guillard has looked almost helpless there at times in the past. Guillard, to his credit, is not the worst wrestler in the world. Still, Dunham should be able to get him to the mat, where he'll finish him in the second round via submission, sending Guillard back to the drawing board once again.
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