Jamie Varner has enjoyed a resurgence since returning to the UFC. | Photo: Sherdog.com
Jamie Varner (20-7-1, 2-2 UFC) vs. Melvin Guillard (30-11-2, 11-7 UFC)
The Matchup: The considerable ability of Guillard continues to reveal itself in brief, tantalizing increments, like when he briefly staggered former teammate Donald Cerrone with a left hand and swarmed for a finish in the early going of their UFC 150 conflict. Cerrone recovered, however, and emerged with a first-round knockout victory, all in a matter of 76 exhilarating seconds.
Such is the career path for Guillard, who is capable of looking like a world-beater one moment and clueless the next. When he is on, “The Young Assassin” is an explosive bundle of fast-twitch muscle fiber capable of dropping anyone with his quick hands and knockout power. The Louisianan has his fair share of in-cage lapses, too, and with losses in three of his past four outings, his five-fight tear from February 2010 to July 2011 seems like a distant memory.
On the other end of the spectrum is Varner, who has taken out a new lease on his UFC career with riveting performances against Edson Barboza and Joe Lauzon this year. Varner’s stoppage of Barboza at UFC 146 was one of the year’s biggest upsets, and his valiant effort in defeat versus Lauzon helped to put their UFC on Fox 4 contest on the short list for “Fight of the Year.” Making those efforts even more impressive is the fact that the former World Extreme Cagefighting lightweight champion took both fights on short notice. With what will presumably be a full camp under his belt for Guillard, Varner can avoid the conditioning issues that hampered him against Lauzon.
While both fighters have proven susceptible to submissions in the past, this scrap will likely be contested primarily on the feet. A former collegiate wrestler with an amateur boxing background, Varner is accustomed to dictating the location of the fight, whether through technical striking or ground-and-pound on the mat. Takedown opportunities will be limited against Guillard, who has good hips and a strong sprawl.
The Blackzilians member prefers to control the tempo of the fight through his standup, but he could be thrown off his game if Varner chooses to press forward. Varner’s most dangerous weapon is his overhand right, but he can also mix in jabs, leg kicks and standing elbows to diversify his attack. The athletic Guillard generally does not absorb as many shots as Varner on the feet, but he has been rocked by Cerrone and Lauzon during exchanges in recent bouts. If Guillard takes a patient, cautious approach, Varner may not find the same openings in a boxing-based fight.
The Pick: Guillard is the faster, more accurate striker. Assuming he thwarts the majority of Varner’s takedowns, look for him to move in and out, landing punches en route to a decision triumph.
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