This Saturday (March 8, 2014) Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) lightweights Michael Johnson and Melvin Guillard will throw down in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night 37, airing live on Fight Pass from O2 Arena in London, England.
Following wins over Gleison Tibau and Joe Lauzon in his last two mixed martial arts (MMA) bouts, Johnson stepped in to replace the injured Ross Pearson, who was originally slated to rematch "Young Assassin" in London.
The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 12 runner-up has always had the talent to succeed; now "Menace" is finally making it happen.
He'll face a stiff challenge in experienced veteran Guillard, who was last seen dominating Pearson before an illegal knee rendered their UFC Fight Night 30 bout without a winner.
It was clear Guillard was on his way to victory before the unfortunate strike; the win could have given him two finishes in a row. The wildly fast and powerful Guillard is equally as inconsistent at times, making this fight an unpredictable one.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for Johnson vs. Guillard:
Record: 14-8 overall, 6-3 UFC
Key Wins: Gleison Tibau (UFC 168), Joe Lauzon (UFC Fight Night 26), Danny Castillo (UFC on FX 5)
Key Losses: Myles Jury (UFC 155), Jonathan Brookins (TUF 12 Finale)
Record: 32-12-2(1) overall, 13-8(1) UFC
Key Wins: Jeremy Stephens (UFC 119), Mac Danzig (UFC on Fox 8), Dennis Siver (UFC 86), Evan Dunham (UFC Fight for the Troops 2), Gleison Tibau (TUF 9 Finale)
Key Losses: Donald Cerrone (UFC 150), Jim Miller (UFC on FX 1), Joe Lauzon (UFC 136), Jamie Varner (UFC 155), Nate Diaz (UFC Fight Night 19)
Recently, No. 14-ranked Johnson's all-around game has progress to a new level at South Florida's Jaco Hybrid Training Center. Training with elite fighters Rashad Evans, Anthony "Rumble" Johnson, and Tyrone Spong has made his striking develop at an insane pace. Fighting Guillard will be the ultimate test of just how far he's come.
If he can pick apart "Young Assassin" on Saturday, we'll know he's arrived.
Although not usually known for submissions, taking this fight to the ground may be the best way of neutralizing Guillard's thunderous power.
Guillard is a former Blackzilians team member who left the team amidst much publicity, giving this fight an interesting dynamic. Guillard will know what to expect from his opponent.
He also has the experience and power to end any lightweight's night in a flash; yet he repeatedly stands in his own way. Johnson has never been knocked out, something that could make this bout a slugfest.
This fight is about as evenly matched as it comes, making it hinge heavily upon which version of Guillard decides to show up to the cage.
Melvin Guillard has been showing flashes of the brilliance that earned him the nickname "Young Assassin," but after nearly nine years in UFC, he's not so young anymore. With his hand speed and knockout power, he's still a very strong wild card.
Johnson has shown the skills to overcome Guillard's initial outburst. Look for "Menace" to use his jab and superior reach to outpoint Guillard, mixing up his game with some takedown attempts.
Both fighters are incredibly hard to knock out, but they've tapped out an alarming amount of times between them. That would be a huge factor if either one of them focused on submitting their opponents, but they rarely do. Because of those similarities, I'm not counting on a finish in London.
Final Prediction: Johnson def. Guillard via unanimous decision