Photos via Jon Kopaloff and Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE
Two veteran lightweights will throw down this Saturday night (Dec. 15, 2012) as Melvin Guillard battles Jamie Varner on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 16 main card in Las Vegas, Nevada. What's the key to victory for both men? Find out below
Record: 30-11-2 (1 No Contest) overall, 11-7 in the UFC
How he got here: "The Young Assassin," still 29 years old, has been fighting professionally for nearly 10 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..
After finding himself on the verge of title contention, Guillard crashed down to Earth hard, having lost three of his last four fights with all three losses coming by way of first round stoppage to current top 10 consensus lightweight fighters in Donald Cerrone, Joe Lauzon and Jim Miller.
Guillard could be fighting for his job against Jamie Varner this weekend.
How he gets it done: Guillard is one of the most dynamite fighters in the lightweight division. He's capable of catching anyone with his power and putting them away. Hell, even in two of his last three losses, he had his opponents hurt before the tides were turned.
"The Young Assassin" possesses some of the most powerful striking in the entire lightweight division. He's also pretty dynamic, capable of hurting opponents 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 by the Varner, who has some decent wrestling and jiu-jitsu skills.
But the biggest key of all for the Imperial Athletics Fighter is to avoid getting reckless. Time and time again he loses focus and gets caught. It happened against Lauzon when he got blasted with a straight punch, it happened against Miller when he threw too many flying knees and it happened against Cerrone when he walked into a massive right hand. If he can stay within himself and remain composed, his odds of winning increase significantly.
Record: 20-7-1 (2 no contests) overall, 2-2 in the UFC
How he got here: Jamie Varner had a history in both wrestling and boxing at a high level before making the transition to mixed martial arts in 2003. He competed very regularly in the local southwest circuit, most notably in the Rage in the Cage promotion before earning a trip to the UFC in 2006.
After a 1-1 stint, he switched over the the WEC where he instantly had major success and defeated champion Rob McCullough to capture the lightweight title. Varner defended the title multiple times but a horrific winless streak at the end of his stint with the WEC left him on the outside looking in when the promotion was folded in with the UFC.
While trying to work his way back, a loss to Dakota Cochrane on the local circuit left "C-4" contemplating retirement but he forged on. Varner found his touch with two straight first round stoppages which opened the door for him to come back to the UFC and he took full advantage of his opportunity, utterfly destroying Edson Barbooza on the UFC 146 main card via violent first round knockout.
His Cinderella story was derailed by Joe Lauzon at UFC on Fox 4 earlier this summer, but he's hoping to right the ship against Guillard this weekend.
How he gets it done: Varner's key to victory is very simple. He needs to go right at Guillard and pressure him on the feet. His right hand is very powerful and has put away fighters with stronger chins than "The Young Assassin" and if he connects on Saturday night, it could be lights out in two straight fights.
If Guillard proves crafty and too quick on the feet for him, Varner can always fall back on his wrestling. He possesses some pretty respectable takedowns and ground and pound to go along with a serviceable ground game. Guillard's biggest weakness is submissions so it's not out of the realm of possibility that Varner could pull one off against him. He just has to put enough pressure on the Imperial Athletics fighter that he makes a mistake which can be capitalized on.
Fight X-Factor: This fight all comes down to mistakes. Guillard is still quick enough and athletic enough to outwork Varner on the feet, but he's got a very bad tendency to get reckless and leave openings for his opponents to exploit.
If Guillard can actually keep himself under control, particularly if he does something exciting like hurt Varner, he has a good shot at winning. If he wades in without a care in the world, he'll find himself seeing stars or tapping the canvas pretty quickly.
Bottom Line: This fight has a TON of potential for entertainment. Just like Guillard's bout against Donald Cerrone, both men are exciting strikers who won't back down from each other. Expect fistic fireworks from start to finish and more than likely someone is going to be getting knocked senseless. The best part is both combatants have a good chance of pulling it off. This is definitely the fight to keep your eye on for this entire weekend. It's going to be good.
Who will come out on top at The Ultimate Fighter 16 Finale? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!
Which powerful lightweight will come out victorious on the TUF 16 Finale main card?
Jamie Varner (53 votes)
Melvin Guillard (43 votes)
96 total votes