Two of the UFC's most talented lightweights in need of redemption will square off tomorrow night (January 20, 2012) as "The Young Assassin" Melvin Guillard takes on the always hardworking Jim Miller in the main event of UFC on FX: "Guillard vs. Miller" in Nasville.
Guillard was potentially one fight away from a title shot before he lost his focus and got blown out by Joe Lauzon at UFC 136. He was not happy with how things went down judging by Dana White's behind the scenes video blog and he's made changes in his training camp, switching over to the Blackzilians at Imperial Athletics. We'll see if that makes a difference tomorrow night.
Jim Miller was in an eerily similar situation, having his seven fight win streak snapped by Ben Henderson at UFC on Versus 5 last year. He's dealt with physical and personal issues in the lead-up to his fight, but he tells us he's prepared fully to take out Guillard and get back to where he was.
Will Guillard changing camps the necessary curveball he needed to throw into his training? Will Miller's submissions be the biggest factor? What is the best path to victory for both men?
Let's find out:Melvin Guillard
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 but couldn't back up his words, getting dropped by a stiff jab and submitted inside a minute at UFC 136 to completely shatter his title aspirations. He'll get his opportunity to work his way back if he can get past the always tough Jim Miller tomorrow night.
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 Miller'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 Mike Winklejohn really made him blossom during his win streak. He can hurt you with straight punches, elbows, knees and kicks.
His biggest weakness has been the ground, so he'll need to avoid being put on his back at all costs against Miller or even leaving his neck out too far.
Guillard got way too excited and rushed in against Lauzon and it cost him so he's going to have to be more patient now for this fight. Guillard will knock Miller's head off the second he sees an opening in the striking department. The likely best option of attack will be to work both the head and body of Miller, wear him down and not rush into anything.
Record: 20-3 overall, 9-2 in the UFC
How he got here: Jim Miller, one of the most consistent fighters in the UFC today, got his start on the New Jersey circuit in a couple promotions, Reality Fighting, Ring of Combat, even having one fight in the IFL before making his UFC debut against David Baron at UFC 89 all the way across the pond in England.
He would win handily, tapping his opponent with a third round rear naked choke. After another impressive win over The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season five alumni Matt Wiman just two months later, he would face eventual title challenger Gray Maynard at UFC 96.
Miller would be outstruck in the stand-up over the course of three rounds, losing a unanimous decision, but that loss lit a fire under him.
Since then, the AMA Fight Club fighter has destroyed everyone in his path, winning seven straight in the division and vaulting his way up to one of the promotion's top lightweight contenders. His last two fights were especially impressive, catching Brazilian submission specialist Charles Oliveira with a kneebar while standing and then crushing then-undefeated WEC veteran Kamal Shalorus with a knee to the face to hand the world class British-Iranian wrestler the first loss of his career.
Miller was out for blood with a title shot on his mind but his hopes got shot down against Ben Henderson late last year in a fight where he simply got outworked and outmuscled on the ground. He's hoping to bounce right back with a huge victory over another top 155 pounder in Guillard.
How he gets it done: What makes Jim Miller so impressive?
The New Jersey native is a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, but also has a year of Division I collegiate wrestling at Virginia Tech to fall back on. He's put in a tremendous amount of time working on his striking and has become deadly with his technique, precision and power.
The Mike Constantino-trained fighter is incredibly well-rounded as a fighter and now appears to have no weaknesses in his game. While the wrestling might be a wash against Guillard, Miller will hold a massive edge in submission ability.
Look for Miller to stand as long as he feels comfortable. He should have the edge over Guillard in both technique and especially in the striking defense department. If he feels he's losing the upper hand, he'll always have the opportunity to attempt to take this fight to the ground, which has worked with outstanding results for Guillard's opponents in the past.
Miller is confident enough in his jiu-jitsu to lock on just about any choke so don't be surprised to see him jump on something if he sees even the tiniest of openings.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest X-Factor for this fight has to be Melvin Guillard's attitude heading into this bout and the fact that he changed his training. He started working with the Blackzilians at Imperial Athletics before his last fight with Joe Lauzon and put on perhaps the worst performance of his career. I'm not sure what he saw in his fight that made him think it would be wise to entirely cease working with Jackson and switch fully over to Imperial.
In my opinion, Greg Jackson kept Guillard grounded and in the game mentally. He kept him from beating himself. Also, in my opinion he's moving up in competition level from Lauzon in facing Jim Miller so he's going to need every one of his faculties to be in tip top shape. If he's absent from this fight mentally, it's going to be very difficult to find a way to win.
Bottom Line: This fight should be extremely interesting. Both Guillard and Miller are strong and competent strikers. While "The Young Assassin" has more power than Miller, his defense and technique are not as good so if this fight stays standing, it could get very entertaining with some promising exchanges. If this fight goes to the ground, I think Miller has his way with the Louisiana native. As long as this stays standing, either man can win.
Who will come out on top at UFC on FX: "Guillard vs. Miller?" Tell us your prediction in the comments below!