UFC 136: For most improved fighter, look no further than Melvin Guillard

via www.cagedinsider.com

Point A

The date was April 5, 2007. Melvin Guillard had just suffered his worst defeat, getting dropped and then choked out by Joe Stevenson. The guillotine choke wasn't the embarrassing part -- "Daddy" has one of the deadliest in the business -- but the getting dropped part definitely was. Stevenson wasn't known for having world-class hands while "The Young Assassin" had a reputation for ending fights with his brutal stand-up.

That, combined with the cocaine coursing through his system, made his first headlining bout also his most humbling. In addition to being levied a fine by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, he was also forced to sit on the sidelines for eight months for his contraband indiscretion.

His next venture inside the Octagon wasn't much better. A hometown rivalry as muggy and dirty as the swamps of Louisiana came to a head at UFC 79 when Guillard took on Rich Clementi. "No Love" ended up getting the last laugh when he submitted his foe within the first round.

A few days later news broke that "The Young Assassin" was taking a step back from competing in the UFC to gain more experience on a smaller scale. That probably should have been the last time most of us ever heard of him.

Point B

Instead the New Orleans-born fighter finds himself on the main card of this Saturday's (Oct. 8) UFC 136 event, slated to take on fellow The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) alumni Joe Lauzon. A win this weekend could definitely put him in a number one contender's bout for the 155-pound title and complete what might be the most remarkable turnaround in the sport's history.

From loudmouth hothead to a possible title shot, this is the story of Melvin Guillard.

"The Young Assassin" made good on his word to get some experience on the regional circuit before making his way back to the Octagon. Whether or not the single fight he took was what he actually what he had in mind when he devised his plan isn't certain.

Less than seven months later, Guillard found himself back in the UFC opposite another lightweight with love for the stand and bang style, Dennis Siver. It took the American 36 seconds to remove Siver from his consciousness while also earning him an extra $60,000 for Knockout of the Night.

Following his return bout, a torn ACL put the young fighter on the shelf for nearly a year. The time spent away from the cage showed as ring rust reared its ugly head when he stepped inside the cage with Gleison Tibau at the TUF 9 Finale. The fight was razor close and many felt the Brazilian did enough to win the bout, controlling the action with takedowns that Guillard was unable to prevent. But "The Young Assassin" was awarded the decision and had his second consecutive UFC wins under his belt.

Once again on a winning streak, Dana White and company felt comfortable putting the Guillard in the headlining slot, this time against the TUF 5 winner, Nate Diaz. The New Orleans native did well, keeping the Diaz on his heels and bullying him around in the stand-up during the opening round.

But by the time the second round started, it became obvious that Guillard was unwilling or unable to evolve past simply being a dangerous striker. He was caught in and tapped to yet another submission. If he was known for finishing fights with his hands, he was equally known for being finished by submissions. They account for seven of his eight losses.

He got to talking to former TUF cast mate and foe, Joe Stevenson. The longtime veteran convinced Guillard to make a trip to New Mexico. Enter Greg Jackson.

Jackson is known as a lot of things in the mixed martial arts (MMA) world. The master of gameplanning, the Yoda of the Octagon, a ruiner of fighters' killer instinct. Whatever he is, he seemed to have been the missing piece in turning "The Young Assassin" from potential washout to title contender.

Under Jackson's tutelage, Guillard has rattled off five straight wins with three of those coming within the distance. Waylon Lowe and Evan Dunham were felled by rapid fire knees while Shane Roller was put to sleep by a series of punches.

"The Young Assassin" has grown patient inside the cage, learning to pick his shots carefully to keep his cardio -- the lightweight division's most precious commodity -- under control. Without gas in the tank, a great fighter becomes good and a good fighter devolves into a mediocre one.

While before Guillard was accusing others of abusing human growth hormone (HGH) and trying to attack opponents after the fight was over, he now seems more focused and reserved. Just the other day "The Young Assassin" said he would understand if current Strikeforce lightweight kingpin Gilbert Melendez was given a title shot inside the Octagon ahead of him. That's a level of maturity far beyond the short-fused, angry fighter we came to know during TUF 5. 

Who is to thank? Dana White, who kept him around after two straight losses and a positive drug test? Greg Jackson, who was able to harness and focus the raw talent the lightweight possessed? Surely both had a hand in helping form the 155-pounder that will step inside the Octagon on Saturday but no one can improve without the desire to do so.

Look no further than Melvin Guillard himself when trying to figure out how we got from Point A to Point B. It was his drive, his determination that brought him to the level he finds himself at now.

"The Young Assassin" is a case of potential realized. And that has the lightweight division on notice.

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