It's pretty rare for most Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fighters to face top-level mixed martial arts (MMA) talent for so long and never really sniff a title shot. But, that's what happens when an individual always seems to come up short in the fights that matter most.
That is the story of Melvin Guillard, who will compete against former training partner, Michael Johnson, in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night 37, which takes place this afternoon (Sat., March 8, 2014) from O2 Arena in London, England.
As an avid fan of the man and all he brings to the Octagon, I've hoped and hoped he'd make it to that next level, but he never quite made it. And at this point, it doesn't seem like he ever will.
His fight later will be telling to where he stands in the Lightweight division as it stands. His opponent, Johnson, appears to be showing more and more potential every time he fights. Guillard has shown that he falls just short of the division's elite, but is he still good enough to get past someone vying for a spot in the Top 10?
What's more, Johnson was a training partner of Guillard's back when he was at Blackzilians, and there seems to be some animosity between the pair. Guillard's departure from the camp seemed pretty hasty and unfriendly, making this fight one that could have some bad blood involved.
It is important that he keeps his head straight here.
Guillard has always been a fighter with all the athletic gifts one could want in a fighter. His speed, power and explosiveness are unparalleled in the lighter weight classes, making him a very dangerous fighter for anyone in the division.
Even with great training and skills, however, Guillard has holes in his game that opponents can -- and often do -- exploit. And most of them, seemingly, are mental blocks. He is actually a pretty good grappler when you watch him take a level-headed approach, but he is mistake prone and antsy when he's placed in pressure situations. He also leaves himself open in striking exchanges at times, which isn't something you want to do when your chin is highly suspect.
Overall, Guillard has quite a big test this weekend. Johnson is no slouch and will look to build up his own name by taking an impressive win over "Young Assassin." Guillard will need to have his head on straight for this fight, especially considering the history these two have. If he can execute a smart, risk-less gameplan against Johnson, I could definitely see him making a statement in the division that he still wants to be considered a top competitor.
If he loses to Johnson, however, it's hard to imagine Guillard getting "fun" fights or matches against more up-and-comers moving forward. And it would certainly be a sad fate for someone with so much talent to be relegated to that type of gatekeeper status.