In the ultra-deep 155-pound division, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) can make some tailor-made matches, and Donald Cerrone vs. Melvin Guillard, going down tonight (Sat., Aug. 11, 2012) in the co-main event of UFC 150 in Denver, Colorado, is precisely that.
Guillard and Cerrone are dynamic strikers who rarely go to the ground willingly unless they've blasted someone there and are pouncing for the finish. Former teammates under Greg Jackson, both put together impressive winning streaks only to get derailed while moving up the long lightweight ladder.
Guillard, ever-cursed by tactical mistakes that unseat his best efforts, seemed to have put the old bug behind him as he piled up an increasingly impressive five-fight winning streak, steamrolling quality foes, including Shane Roller and Evan Dunham, the latter with a vicious opening-round blitz that was vintage Guillard. He then caught an early counter hook from Joe Lauzon and was subsequently choked out before giving Jim Miller some early trouble only to be wrested to the mat and submitted.
For the first 10 months of 2011, Cerrone was having the kind of year a fighter debuting in the UFC dreams about. Stringing together four wins, he headed into his December showdown against Nate Diaz on the cusp of lightweight title contention. Three rounds later, battered and punished, Cerrone took a frightful pounding, his cast-iron chin carrying him to the finish line.
Both men need a win to boost their relevance in an extremely competitive division, and this match-up is a violent experiment to sort that out. Quick-fast.
Guillard has a huge wrestling and takedown advantage, and whether or not he decides to change levels, and at least feint the threat of a takedown, could open up things on the feet. However, Melvin largely relies on his spry hips and outstanding balance to deny takedowns because he's so confident in his standup. He's more powerful with his strikes, but also has a much more obvious half-life; dangerous and explosive early, he can waver and tire down the stretch, which often leads to his fight-changing mental errors. Cerrone is very steady on his feet, equipped with one of the best chins in the game and a smooth, workmanlike style utilizing a well-rounded mix of punches, elbows, kicks and knee. He'll string combinations together as opposed to massive single-shot bombs that Guillard likes to unleash, and if the fight goes past the halfway mark, these combinations will be increasingly important and effective for "The Cowboy."
This is a definite Fight of the Night contender on paper. Cerrone isn't as flashy and gifted as Guillard, but he's exceptionally resilient, and his bottom game is very solid, should he get planted on the mat. Look for Guillard to bang home some big shots in the opening minutes, while Cerrone mixes in range finding kicks, jabs, and picks angles while Guillard asserts his greater physical strength trying to force exchanges. It wouldn't shock anyone to see Cerrone eat some massive bombs and get dropped, but he's always shown amazing recuperative powers, thanks to a professional kickboxing career and a familiarity with how to take punches. Guillard has shown more patience in recent fights but that is where Cerrone will test him. Over the second half of the bout Cerrone will keep pressing, land kicks and forcing Guillard to work when he doesn't want to, and piling up volume-style shots. He'll surge down the stretch in a rollicking bout that starts tactical, but ends up a pier-six slugfest.
Cerrone by split decision
MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the main card action on fight night (Saturday, August 11, 2012), which is slated to air at 10 p.m. ET on PPV. The latest quick updates of the live action will begin to flow earlier than that around 8:00 p.m. ET with the "Prelims" bouts on Facebook and FX Channel.
See you later!
Jason Probst can be reached at twitter.com/jasonprobst or firstname.lastname@example.org.