Melvin Guillard has shown flashes of brilliance inside the Octagon. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
LightweightsMelvin Guillard (31-12-2, 12-8 UFC) vs. Michael Johnson (14-8, 6-4 UFC)
The Pick: In boxing alone, very few in professional mixed martial arts can match Guillard in terms of speed, power and athleticism. “The Young Assassin” ranks No. 3 all-time in UFC history with 13 knockdowns; and as he proved against Mac Danzig last summer, when the end arrives, it often comes in swift and violent fashion.
Of course, there is more to MMA than fast and powerful hands, and Guillard’s faulty ground game has been exposed on more than one occasion. Add that to a history of instability when it comes to training camps and the occasional mental lapse on fight night, and it is not difficult to understand why Guillard has never fully realized his potential in the UFC.
In Johnson, he meets something of a kindred spirit in that the Blackzilians representative has been equal parts tantalizing and vexing inside the Octagon. Lately, Johnson has been brilliant, battering the favored Joe Lauzon at UFC Fight Night 26 before knocking out the usually durable Gleison Tibau at UFC 168 in December. “The Ultimate Fighter 12” finalist is the rare breed who can actually match up with Guillard in terms of hand speed and boxing. Like his opponent, Johnson has also struggled when he has been forced to spend significant amounts of time on his back. “The Menace” has also demonstrated a tendency to fade after strong starts, most notably in losses to Reza Medadi and Jonathan Brookins.
How the fight goes really depends on which versions of Johnson and Guillard show up. Both favor a sprawl-and-brawl approach, but Johnson has a three-inch reach advantage and is a southpaw. Considering that the straight left has dropped both Lauzon and Tibau in recent outings, this could be a concern for Guillard, who fights from an orthodox stance.
Both men rely primarily on solid movement and punching combinations. However, Guillard has made effective use of knees in past bouts, while Johnson blasted Medadi with a head kick and also made good use of knees and elbows in close quarters against Lauzon. Of the two, Guillard’s chin has looked more questionable of late -- witness the short punch that hurt him in his loss to Lauzon at UFC 136.
The Pick: Johnson’s reach, comparable hand speed and southpaw stance could give Guillard trouble. If “The Young Assassin” were willing to implement takedowns more consistently, he could give Johnson problems. It is far more likely that these two spend the majority of the contest standing. If that happens, Johnson wins via decision.
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