Joe Lauzon (top) welcomes the challenge of facing Melvin Guillard. | Photo: Sherdog.com
As a rule, Joe Lauzon is careful not to call out fighters.
“It’s not my style,” he tells Sherdog.com. “I don’t think it’s my job to pick my opponents anyway. I think it’s on [UFC matchmaker] Joe Silva. If he wanted me to fight someone, then I’m down. I’ll do whatever they want. I’m not one of those guys that’s trying to puff out his chest and look like Billy Badass.”
The submission specialist thought the media blew his current situation out of proportion a bit after he found himself on the opposite end of the equation. When Melvin Guillard told MMAWeekly.com he thought “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 5 alum would make a good fight for him, everyone else ran with it, Lauzon recalls.
“I feel like people always like to stir the pot a little bit,” he says. “I kind of expect it at this point. I really think that everyone’s going to try to sensationalize whatever they can. Melvin just saying that, all in all, he thinks it’d be a good fight between us -- that’s not the greatest headline. ‘Melvin and Joe Lauzon Might Be a Good Fight’ would not be a great headline, but ‘Melvin Guillard Calls out Joe Lauzon, Calls for a Fight’ is a much better headline, so that’s what people run with.”
Lauzon admits he was a bit perplexed as to why Guillard would pick a fight with him, especially when one considers all but one of New Orleans native’s losses have come by way of submission, an area in which Lauzon shines.
“I was a little bit surprised by it,” Lauzon says, although he was quick to point out that he does not expect an easy fight. “Generally, you don’t have guys calling out someone who has a good style to beat them, so it was a little bit strange.”
Another source of confusion for Lauzon was based on where the two stand in the rankings. Guillard will enter their UFC 136 showdown on Saturday in Houston riding a five-fight winning streak, and most believe him to be on the cusp of title contention. Lauzon, by comparison, has not won consecutive bouts since 2009.
“If I were Melvin and I were winning five, six fights in a row … I think he’s ranked higher than me,” he says. “If I’m trying to get a title shot, I’m not calling out a guy below me. I would have expected him to call out a Jim Miller or someone more like that.”
The Brockton, Mass., native will enter the fight as a distinct underdog, but he claims he does not pay much attention to the odds. In fact, it is a role with which he has become familiar. Prior to his promotional debut against former lightweight champion Jens Pulver at UFC 63 in 2006, few gave him much of a chance. Lauzon won by knockout in 48 seconds.
“I don’t really put a whole lot of stock in all that. I think you can have a favorite and an underdog, but, other than that, I really don’t think it matters because it doesn’t make anything happen,” he says. “I was like a 7-to-1 underdog when I fought Pulver and I came out on top of that, so I really don’t get too worked up about odds or anything like that.”
Lauzon readily admits Guillard will have the advantage standing, even comparing the Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts representative to boxing champion Floyd Mayweather Jr.
“He’s very choppy, in and out, kind of fights a little bit like Mayweather. He’s in and out, a lot of feinting, but he comes with a lot of power at the same time,” he says. “He’s got a lot of power on his feet, so it’s kind of tough because if he clips you with one shot, you’re going down. He’s super strong and super explosive, so it’s going to be a tough fight.”
Lauzon’s boxing coach Steve Maze agrees that Guillard has an edge in the standup, citing his speed and power. However, Maze does not view Guillard as technically sound.
“He’s not a conventional standup fighter,” Maze says. “He’s a little erratic. He’s a little [all] over the place. His hands aren’t up very high. His elbows aren’t very tight. His stance isn’t perfect. He relies a lot on his athleticism to make up for his fundamental mistakes; his speed makes up for what he lacks fundamentally.”
Therefore, Lauzon’s striking sessions have focused almost entirely on dealing with Guillard’s next-gear speed.
“Sometimes, we have to worry about how tall a guy is or certain punches that a guy does very well. Melvin is just so fast that that’s what we’re working on specifically for Melvin Guillard. We’re going to try to negate his speed,” Maze says. “I’ve talked to three, four guys that he’s fought and they’ll tell you that he gets you with shots because you don’t see them coming, so that has been the number one focus in this fight.”
Lauzon’s training consists of 18 sessions a week, leaving him little free time outside of Sunday, which he reserves as a rest day. The other six days a week involve extensive preparation for Guillard’s speed, which has included many striking sessions with lighter and faster sparring partners with great footwork, including Ben Pittsley and Jose Adriano, all while making sure to maintain a high pace.
“You can’t slow down against Melvin,” Lauzon says. “You have to push hard, and if you take a step back to catch your breath or anything like that, he’s coming hard, so we’ve been training really really hard.”
Although he sees Guillard’s speed and explosiveness are the most significant hurdles he has to overcome, Lauzon was quick to point out that “The Young Assassin” poses challenges everywhere in the cage.
“He’s got good offensive wrestling, he’s good at taking people down, he’s good at avoiding takedowns, he’s really good at getting back up to his feet and, obviously, his hands and kickboxing are also very good,” he says. “He hits you with big left hooks, big overhand rights, big straight rights, big knees, big kicks, big elbows -- whatever -- so he’s definitely a guy you’ve got to be on guard with at all times.”