At The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 16 Finale, which will take place at "The Joint" inside The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Dec. 15, 2012, mixed martial arts (MMA) fans will be treated to their second Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) event of the weekend.
UFC on FX 6, which will take place the day before (Dec. 14, 2012) at the Gold Coast Convention Centre in Queensland, Australia, is sure to produce its share of interesting fights. So, too, will TUF 16 Finale; however, between the two cards the one that sticks out the most is Melvin Guillard vs. Jamie Varner.
Both of these men are terrific athletes and fighters, and on Saturday, they will be fighting for relevancy. Both men have been on both the brink of success and on the brink of obscurity, but they now find themselves in limbo between the two positions.
Melvin Guillard's style has, for a very long time, remained just about the same. Every time out, he attacks with reckless abandon, using his heavy punches to put opponents down. Despite using the same style for years, he has made vast improvements over the course of his career, especially in his technique.
"Young Assassin" possesses striking power on par with some of the strongest fighters in the UFC. He uses this power effectively, as he's tightened up his punching technique and mixes in crushing knees to do serious damage to his opponents. Guillard has rocked notably sturdy opponents, including the likes of Donald Cerrone, Jim Miller, Nate Diaz, Evan Dunham and many more.
It is safe to say that Guillard is probably the last person you'd like to get hit by in the UFC's lightweight division. Not only is his power a threat when standing, but his speed and footwork also contribute to his overall skill when standing. His movement is extremely fast, as he can close the distance in split seconds and connect before his opponent can protect himself. When he is on his game, Guillard's aggression and power serve as a potent mixture, allowing him to dish out serious damage and finish even the toughest of opposition.
Guillard's main flaws standing come from his defense against counters and his hand placement. Though Guillard is a very good initiator standing, his hands are down too often, allowing shots to land square on his suspect chin. Though he has only one loss by knockout in his career, his poor defense and weak chin have contributed to countless submission losses as he gets dropped and choked in short order.
Jamie Varner's striking, like Guillard's, relies mostly on his punches. Varner is a pressure fighter when standing, often crowding his opponents to open striking opportunities for himself. His short hooks on the inside are fight enders, and he uses them to brutal effectiveness, as seen in his first round victory over respected striker Edson Barboza.
Varner has put on great striking battles with accomplished fighters, as seen in many of his fights in his WEC tenure. In addition to his high-pressure offense, Varner is one of the most defensively sound strikers at lightweight. He keeps his technique sharp, and by utilizing pressure and footwork, keeps his opponents' offense to a minimum while he is free to attack. His chin is also very sturdy, and he rarely looks fazed when punches connect on him. He has never been knocked out in his career, and his defense and chin are largely responsible for that.
In this fight, Guillard and Varner will probably go toe-to-toe at striking distance for a while. Both of them have terrific footwork and movement, and their striking exchanges will have a lot of power behind them. For Guillard, defensive improvements will be necessary to not get tagged by Varner's high pressure striking style. Varner will have to prioritize head movement and be ready for quick rushes, because even with a great chin, Guillard can connect and put anyone's lights out.
The grappling phase of this fight can also be pretty competitive, but I would expect Varner to be the only one of the two to initiate any ground work.
Guillard's ground game is based heavily on his explosiveness and strong hips, using his wrestling ability offensively and defensively. He was a Florida state champion in his senior year of high school, which he uses along with his judo game to score takedowns and to defend them. Guillard's takedowns show his explosive power, as he blasts through opponents quickly to put them on their back. He has also shown to have high level judo, as he often uses trips and throws to bring opponents to the mat.
When the fight physically hits the mat, Guillard isn't quite as good. While his technique is fairly good, he is prone to panicing in bad positions, allowing opponents to take better positioning and catch submissions. However, in his recent fight with Fabricio Camoes, Guillard did show that he can survive on the mat with jiu-jitsu specialists, escaping numerous bad positions by using proper technique and defense against a highly skilled jiu-jitsu fighter.
Varner's takedown game, like his striking, is heavily based on pressure. He bullies opponents around the cage, and blasts through takedowns when they become available. His wrestling technique is solid, and he is very tenacious, never stopping his attack until he gets the takedown or is shaken off.
Varner is a strong grappler, and he knows how to attack in many ways on the mat. His submission game, while not exceptionally good, is very solid and very threatening, and it's something opponents have to look out for when fighting him. His ground and pound is also a threat, as he connects with heavy punches whenever he can, and he advances position to maximize his effectiveness at dropping punches and elbows.
If and when these two men enter the grappling phase in their fight on Saturday, it is very likely that Varner will be the initiator. While his takedowns are good, he'll have to work hard for them, as Guillard is no slouch in stopping takedowns, especially the kinds Varner regularly uses. Guillard will have to be ready for these takedowns, and if he does end up in the bottom position, he'll have to remain composed so he doesn't give up any position to his tenacious opponent. He'll have to be ready to use sweeps and get back to his feet if he wants to have much success against Varner.
When Guillard and Varner face off at TUF 16 Finale, they'll be fairly equal in all facets of MMA. Where I believe Guillard may have a slight striking advantage, it wouldn't surprise me to see Varner exploit the holes in Guillard's striking game. At the same time, Varner's slight grappling edge may be mitigated by Guillard's overbearing strength and athleticism, and he may be forced to stay standing with a very hard hitter.
Ultimately, I am led to believe that this fight will be a striking battle that will go at a very high pace. Timing will make all the difference, but both fighters have what it takes to knockout their opponent at any point in the fight. Ultimately, I doubt this fight will go to a judge's decision, and leading up to whatever finish there may be, there will be heavy leather thrown by both parties.
Both of these men are coming off fight of the night performances in their last bout, and they have all it takes to do it again in a showdown that has all the potential to earn unofficial "Fight of the Weekend" honors.