Long known for his exceptional athleticism and punching power, Guillard had also found consistency, rattling off five consecutive wins -- the longest such streak of his UFC career -- from February 2010 to July 2011. Following knockouts of Evan Dunham and Shane Roller, Guillard appeared determined to add his name to the list of viable lightweight contenders.
Instead, the 29-year-old was submitted with rear-naked chokes in his next two fights, falling to Joe Lauzon last October and then Jim Miller in January. Guillard now looks to right his ship on Saturday when he squares off with Fabricio Camoes at UFC 148 from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. In Camoes, Guillard faces another Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt with 11 career finishes to his credit.
Though “Morango” does not possess the same level of name recognition as many of Guillard's previous opponents, “The Young Assassin” says that such things matter little when the cage door closes on fight night.
“I prepare for every fight the same way. I go in to fight my fight. I don't care how many wins or losses he's got. I don't care who he's beaten. Every fight is different when you step in there,” Guillard recently told Sherdog.com. “I do credit myself for being one of the most exciting fighters and one of the fighters who is hardest to prepare for. I think he's probably trying to come up with a brilliant game plan to outclass my game plan, and I think he's going to be a little bit unsuccessful on Saturday.”
Guillard believes his edge in the upcoming contest will come partially from his increased familiarity with his new team, the Blackzilians. Previously a member of Jackson's MMA in Albuquerque, N.M., Guillard now trains in south Florida at the JACO Hybrid Training Center alongside competitors like former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans and ex-Octagon talents Jorge Santiago and Anthony Johnson.
“It took a few of [my teammates] a little bit [of time] to warm up to me, but now it feels no different than when I was at Jackson's [MMA],” said Guillard. “It's amazing to have such strong group of Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belts like I have never had before. Having three or four black belts jump on me while I was tired and they were fresh, having to fight out of bad positions, it makes me more confident in my game going into this fight with Fabricio.”
UFC 148 marks Guillard's first trip to the Octagon in over five months, as he rides a two-fight losing streak for the first time since 2007. Though his defeats to Miller and Lauzon both took place inside the first round, the lightweight says that he views the bouts quite differently. Guillard -- who says he would like a rematch with both men -- confesses that while the Miller loss was disappointing, the Lauzon defeat still stands as the more bitter setback.
“I can respect a loss against a guy like Miller. I actually hurt a guy in my division that nobody else had a chance to hurt. I had him down, and it was my fault that I didn't jump on him when I should have. I kind of gave him a way out, and he took it and turned it on and ended up beating me. To lose to a great guy, I don't mind. But to lose to a scrub like Joe Lauzon because I was impatient, when I should have won the fight, that's the difference.”
Those losses now behind him, Guillard finds motivation in his desire to win while constantly making sacrifices to improve his skills, an aspect of fighting that Guillard believes few people outside the fighting fraternity can truly understand.
“The drive [to win] has been inside of me since I was a kid. I've been competing in MMA since I was 14, and I turned pro when I was 16. I've always been in situations where I had to endure winning and losing, and it does hurt to lose, even though to [the media] it doesn't seem like it's hurting. But there are times, like after the Jim Miller fight, when I went back to my room and cried a little bit, because I knew that I could have done better. At the end of the day, I don't care what the media think of me.”
In addition to improving his record, Guillard also hopes that his efforts in the training room and the cage will benefit his family and lay a foundation upon which future MMA fighters will thrive.
“[Just like how] guys like [Randy] Couture paved the way for us, we're now paving the way for the younger generation. Maybe one day if I have kids, they can come into the business when the UFC is a monster and fighters are making millions of dollars a fight, like boxers,” said Guillard. “People don't see that. They just see two people beating each other up until somebody gets choked out, and that's really not what fighting is all about. It's about the competitive nature, but we have to think about taking care of ourselves and our families.”
The next step in Guillard's journey toward bigger fights and greater security begins on Saturday, when he will try to combine the lessons he has learned from his recent defeats to halt his skid and best Camoes.
“I have to level myself out. I have to have that level of aggression, but I also have to have patience. And I have to bring it together as one to make the result, and that's a [win],” said Guillard. “Going into this fight, I'm definitely confident. I will be patient, the same way I was in the Jim Miller fight, but I will also be the aggressive guy that made me a star in the UFC.”