Two former teammates will collide this Saturday night (August 11, 2012) as Greg Jackson-trained lightweight fighter Donald Cerrone takes on former stablemate Melvin Guillard in the co-main event of UFC 150 in Denver, Colorado.
Cerrone has won five of his first six UFC fights and most recently overcame some intestinal issues to take Jeremy Stephens to school at UFC on Fuel TV 3. "Cowboy" is already talking about a potential fight against former WEC competitor Anthony Pettis, but he'll have to take out Guillard first.
Melvin Guillard has always had the word "pontential" stamped on him. It seemed he was finally starting to live up to his talents during a solid win streak that had him on the verge of title contention but he crashed and burned during a streak where he lost twice in a row via first round submission. He bounced back in his last fight and a victory over Cerrone would put him right back in the mix.
Will "Cowboy" wrangle Guillard? Can "The Young Assassin" bring something new to the table and put away his former teammate? What's the key to victory for both men?
Let's find out.Donald Cerrone
Record: 18-4 (1 No Contest) overall, 5-1 in the UFC
How he got here: Cerrone, a former bull-rider, transitioned to mixed martial arts (MMA) and got off to a very hot start. He was undefeated in his first 10 fights, working all the way up to a WEC title fight with then-champion Jamie Varner.
Cerrone would come up short via close split technical decision. Despite the setback, the Greg Jackson-trained fighter would go on to battle Ben Henderson for the interim title when Varner became injured. He would lose another close decision in what was deemed the 2009 "Fight of the Year." After again bouncing back, "Cowboy" would try (and fail) for a third time at WEC gold in a rematch with Henderson, but would at least get redemption against Varner in his next fight, soundly defeating the former champ via unanimous decision.
After defeating Chris Horodecki in the final WEC event ever, Cerrone made his UFC debut on the Spike TV "Prelims" of UFC 126 against Paul Kelly. "Cowboy" surprised many by working his ground game against the Brit and completely outclassed "Tellys," earning a submission victory by way of rear naked choke in the second round.
He would continue his torrid 2011 with victories over Vagner Rocha, his first knockout victory over Charles Oliveira and then he capped it off by destroying top contender Dennis Siver before the midway point of the first round. After his impressive showing against Siver, he called for one more fight in 2011 and he had his wish granted against Nate Diaz, but he bit off more than he could chew, losing a dominant unanimous decision against the Stockton slugger.
Cerrone returned to action against Jeremy Stephens at UFC on Fuel TV 3, dominating the "Lil' Heathen" via unanimous decision to get back on track. Now, he's back in the spotlight against a former teammate.
How he gets it done: Both of these men are talented, but Cerrone has a few distinct advantages. The first is that he's much more likely to use kicks in the striking game. This should give him some bonus effectiveness from a distance that Guillard won't be able to counter. The other is his submission game.
Guillard has been stopped via submission on multiple occasions, especially lately, most recently losing to Joe Lauzon and Jim Miller via rear naked choke. If Cerrone can take the fight to the ground, he's got some very crafty submissions skills and he could tie Guillard up into his web, threatening with chokes, armbars or anything else.
Footwork will be key for Cerrone. Guillard can be overaggressive and reckless at time so as long as he can dance circles around "The Young Assassin," avoid the big power shot and keep peppering away with jabs and straight rights, he should at least be able to score a decision if not worse.
Record: 30-10-2 (1 No Contest) overall, 11-6 in the UFC
Key Wins: Evan Dunham (UFC Fight for the Troops 2), Dennis Siver (UFC 86), Jeremy Stephens (UFC 119)
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 earlier this year to vault himself into the title picture.
He called out Joe Lauzon after 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 got an opportunity to work his way back against Jim Miller, but again was finished on the ground. The Imperial Athletics fighter finally got back on the winning side by defeating Fabricio Camoes via unanimous decision at UFC 148.
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 Cerrone's face with ground and pound.
"The Young Assassin" possesses some of the most powerful strikes in the entire lightweight division and he really started to come into his own in 2011. 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 Cerrone or even leaving his neck out too far.
Guillard got way too excited and rushed in against Lauzon and against Miller and it cost him. He can't be predictable and do something like throw the same flying knee over and over or charge in recklessly. Cerrone is a very technical striker and even if he chooses to just stand and bang, Guillard will have to keep his guard up or he'll risk getting rocked on the feet and then tapped out on the ground.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest X-Factor for this fight is the familiarity that both men have with each other. It hasn't even been a full year since Melvin Guillard left Greg Jackson's gym, where he was a regular sparring partner with Cerrone. Both men know each other's tendencies very well at this point, so it's all about who's going to make the correct adjustments.
If either man can surprise the other, that could be all it takes since both are such powerful strikers. It only takes one shot that they don't see coming.
Bottom Line: If the fight stays standing and turns into an all-out brawl that both men are promising, then this fight has all the potential in the world to be incredible. Both men are solid strikers with power and technique to deliver a knockout at any moment. Cerrone is the more diverse fighter while Guillard has more one-punch power. There's definite opportunity for not only "Fight of the Night" but a "Fight of the Year" candidate with this one. Keep you eyes glued to the TV and don't blink.
Who will come out on top at UFC 150? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!