Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) lightweights Michael Johnson and Melvin Guillard squared off yesterday (March 8, 2014) in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night 37 from O2 Arena in London, England.
Having won his last two bouts in impressive fashion over Gleison Tibau and Joe Lauzon, Johnson came into London in the best shape of his career. Training with Rashad Evans, Anthony "Rumble" Johnson and Tyrone Spong, his striking had progressed to a new level at South Florida's Jaco Hybrid Training Center.
Johnson needed every bit of that skill against "Young Assassin," a former teammate who was on a minor upswing in his wildly inconsistent career. Despite his ups and downs, Guillard still maintained some of the best raw punching power in the sport.
With the odds about as close to even as they come, ultimately Johnson dictated the tempo of the bout to clearly defeat Guillard. "Young Assassin" was surprisingly tentative, opening the door for Johnson's third straight win.
The first round kicked off fast as Guillard hit Johnson with a big knee. A low blow to Guillard caused a short break in the action, after which Johnson rushed forward with a combo. "Menace" continued to snap varied kicks towards Guillard. The fighters traded shots as Johnson controlled the Octagon. "Menace" taunted Guillard to pick up the pace, rushing forward for a takedown. "Young Assassin" responded with a big right hand and a sharp judo throw as the first round came to a close.
Johnson pushed the action again in the second. The pace slowed a bit, with the majority of the early offense coming from Johnson's kicks. The fighters threw wild combinations that were dodged, and then Johnson landed a sharp left hand and kick. The crowd booed as Johnson showed his frustration towards Guillard's relative unwillingness to engage. Johnson unleashed an excellent flurry, landing some hard punches and a big knee to wobble Guillard as the frame concluded.
Johnson may have been up two rounds to none when the third round began. He took the fight to the mat early in the frame, but "Young Assassin" recovered well. Guillard went for an unsuccessful spinning back kick and continued to backpedal, seemingly looking for one huge counter shot. Johnson landed a hard punch as Guillard came in, following up with another knee. Guillard signaled for an eye poke but the referee never stopped the action. Johnson capitalized with some elbows against the cage to lock up a clear-cut unanimous decision victory.
The win proved "Menace" is ready for a Top 10 type of opponent. But, with many of the division's elite currently booked, someone like the winner of April's Jim Miller vs. Bobby Green match would be a solid next bout for Johnson.
Guillard continues to show extreme inconsistency. It appeared like he was trying to either lure Johnson into a false sense of security or avoid over committing, but ultimately he accomplished neither. Usually known for his aggressive nature, Guillard showed little of the explosive knockout power for which he is known.
At this point in his career, it's clear that "Young Assassin" will never be a true title contender, but he can still provide some very exciting fights for the fans when his head is in it.
Michael Johnson continued his winning ways with a solid decision win over a strangely hesitant-to-engage Melvin Guillard. Is the surging "Menace" ready for a huge fight?