Melvin "The Young Assassin" Guillard is on a roll right now in the UFC lightweight division. With a five fight winning streak, he's quickly become a contender. Guillard actually called out Lauzon after his last victory over Shane Roller and he truly believes he's got a title shot in his near future.
Lauzon was up for the challenge and accepted the bout, which will give him a tremendous opportunity to leapfrog his divisional counterparts. "J-Lau" may have a lousy nickname, but he fights like it's his last night on this Earth and he'll bring it come fight night.
Can Guillard continue his rise up the lightweight ranks? With some solid submission skills up his sleeve, does Lauzon have an upset brewing? Can "The Young Assassin" earn a title shot before he becomes too old for his moniker?
Record: 29-8-2 (1 No Contest) overall, 10-4 in the UFC
How he got here: "The Young Assassin," still 28 years old, has been fighting professionally for nearly nine years now, getting his start at just 19 years old in 2002. Based on fhis pure athletic talent alone, he started his career 11-0 before running into a ground wizard in Carlo Prater who stopped him in his tracks with a submission.
Guillard didn't have his head on straight and he would go 7-3-2 with one no contest over the next two years, losing to men he shouldn't have lost to and even costing himself a victory over Roger Huerta due to greasing. He caught the eye of the UFC, who cast him in season two of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) but he was eliminated from the show in his first fight.
The Louisiana native would defeat Marcus Davis in his UFC debut on the show's finale but would continue a rocky two year stretch culminating in a submission loss to Joe Stevenson in which he tested positive for cocaine afterwards.
Guillard earned an invite back to the promotion on the local circuit and impressed with victories over Dennis Siver and Gleison Tibau upon his return but would come up short against Nate Diaz while headlining UFC Fight Night 19. After the submission loss to Diaz, Guillard switched over to Greg Jackson's camp and completely turned his life around. He's won five straight including an incredible first round technical knockout of hyped prospect Evan Dunham earlier this year to vault himself into the title picture.
He called out Joe Lauzon after recently defeating Shane Roller and got his wish when "J-Lau" agreed to the fight. He's also been doing his preparation for this bout at Imperial Athletics with Rashad Evans and the "Blackzilians."
How he gets it done: Guillard has powerful wrestling and he's one of the most dynamic fighters in the lightweight division, but if he wants to win this fight, he either needs to keep the bout standing, or put himself in a position to drop some serious leather on Lauzon's face with ground and pound.
"The Young Assassin" possesses some of the most powerful strikes in the entire lightweight division and his work with Greg Jackson has really made him blossom in his last two fights. He can hurt you with straight punches, elbows, knees and kicks.
His biggest weakness has been the ground, but his defensive wrestling has improved drastically in the past two years as he's not just diving into guillotines or doing anything stupid anymore.
He's more patient now, but don't confuse that with passivity, Guillard will knock Lauzon's head off the second he sees an opening in the striking department. The likely best option of attack will be to wait Lauzon out, drag him to the second round and take advantage of him if his opponent pushes himself too hard early in the fight.
Record: 20-6 overall, 7-3 in the UFC
How he got here: Joe Lauzon has faced some seriously stiff competition in his seven and a half year MMA career. The native Bostonian competed primarily on the east coast circuit early in his career, earning a victory over eventual WEC champ Mike Brown but coming up short to the likes of Jorge Masvidal, Ivan Menjivar and Raphael Assuncao.
Lauzon won three fights in one night on April 1, 2006 to punch his ticket to the UFC where he was expected to be thrown to the wolves against former UFC lightweight champion Jens Pulver, who was finally returning to the promotion. Instead, clipped Pulver and knocked him out in just 47 seconds in one of the biggest upsets of the year.
Despite his incredible showing, Lauzon would instead take a spot on season five of The Ultimate Fighter, which was actually half coached by Pulver. "J-Lau" was the favorite to win the show but would be upset by eventual finalist Manny Gamburyan in the semifinals.
Since the show, it has been feast or famine for Lauzon. He's won six fights in the promotion, but only one (Jeremy Stephens) has come against someone still employed with the UFC. He's scored three losses against three of the division's best in Sam Stout, Kenny Florian and George Sotiropoulos but it never seems like the promotion has any middle ground with the Massachusetts native.
Lauzon has turned into a bonus hog in his recent fights, taking home "Fight of the Night" in all of his three Octagon losses and winning "Submission of the Night" in his three most recent victories.
His streak of feast or famine will continue this Saturday night against Guillard, a consensus top 10 lightweight in the world at the moment.
How he gets it done: Lauzon wants that submission. He's got a very aggressive guard with sweeps and attacks of the arm but he's also got some competent striking, something he showcased against both Jens Pulver in his UFC debut and in his most recent fight against Kurt Warburton in which he dropped the Brit standing before finishing him with a Kimura on the canvas.
Lauzon would be unwise to stand and trade with Guillard though, as he's going to be dealing with a significant power disadvantage. His key to victory is to do what he always does and really get in "The Young Assassin's" face with aggressive strikes while looking for a takedown to follow up on his punches.
Perhaps he could get Guillard to instinctually shoot in for a takedown if he leaves a big opening while pressing forward and he could then latch on a guillotine choke. Fighters tend to make mistakes when they've got attacks coming in from all direction and Lauzon does a great job of getting his opponents out of their comfort zone.
If Lauzon can get this fight to the ground, he's going to be helping his cause tremendously, but it's not going to be easy. The TUF season two veteran has a powerful wrestling game and doesn't go down easily unless he wants to. Getting up close in the clinch and trying a trip takedown would likely be his best bet.
Fight "X-Factor:" The X-Factor for this bout is time. Joe Lauzon has really embraced the "kill or be killed" mentality, pushing an incredible pace, beyond his conditioning even to finish his opposition. This basically means if he doesn't finish Guillard in the first round or early in the second, he's likely going to run out of gas and wilt. He's only gone to a decision once in his career, losing a spirited effort to Sam Stout at UFC 108 and his other two losses have been stoppages after the midway point of the fight.
If Guillard can weather the early storm, he'll likely be able to pull this one out.
Bottom Line: This fight should be incredible. Joe Lauzon has gone to one decision in his 26 career fights, and even that fight earned him a "Fight of the Night" bonus. He's a fighter that always keeps the pressure on with an incredible high pace. If there's any fighter that literally leaves it all in the cage, it's Lauzon. Guillard is also one of the most exciting lightweights in the UFC and after adjusting to working with Greg Jackson, he's come into his own and really begun destroying everyone in his path. It's extremely unlikely that this bout goes to a decision and with Guillard's place in the 155 division, there is some serious divisional relevance. You will not want to miss this fight as a bonus is practically guaranteed.
Who will come out on top at UFC 136? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!