I've seen when I've hit guys that when I look them in the eye it is
almost like it took the fight out of them. I've seen that in a couple
fighters I've faced and I think I'm going to see that in Joe Lauzon.” - Melvin Guillard
There is an ever present debate concerning the thin line which separates “confidence” from “cockiness”. The truth of the matter, the division of the two depends on the source of the comments. The words are all the same: I’m stronger, I’m faster, and I’m better, so I will win. It comes down to, can you really argue with the person saying it? In terms of UFC lightweight Melvin Guillard, it has become almost impossible to disagree with him.
“The more an opponent watches me, the more scared they're going to get,” states Guillard.
Actions speak louder than words, and in 2011 “The Young Assassin” has scored two brutal and quick first round knockouts over upper tier opponents: Evan Dunham and Shane Roller. It is truly difficult to play Devil’s advocate against Guillard considering “The Young Assassin” has been one of the most feared strikers at 155 pounds for the past six years and he looks better than ever. Since joining Greg Jackson’s renowned team in Albuquerque, New Mexico in January of 2010, “The Young Assassin” has been a 5-0 freight train mowing down his competition, and it doesn’t appear like Guillard is slowing down until he gets a title shot.
“That's my main goal - to break a guy's will,” asserts Guillard. “I know physically, I'm always going to be the better athlete. It's rare they are going to find a better athlete than me at 155, but I think working with Greg Jackson, the team, and the trainers I have - I'm stronger mentally. That's the biggest weapon I have because I break people mentally before the fight even happens. Honestly, I think when guys sign the contracts to fight me they are not sure of themselves. They're probably like 'why did Joe Silva (UFC Matchmaker) call me and ask me to fight Melvin?' That's the way I feel. It might not be like that, but in my mind that's how I feel. I feel like guys don't want to stand in front of me and trade punches.”
Nor should they. Even a casual UFC fan could take a brief glimpse of Guillard’s career stats and glean that exchanging fists and feet with “The Young Assassin” is a bad idea. There’s a wealth of material for Guillard’s opponents to agonize over as “The Young Assassin” has competed in over 50 pro fights, appeared on season two of The Ultimate Fighter, and, specifically, battled in the Octagon 14 times to a 10-4 UFC record. Guillard’s opposition will learn exactly what we already know: he’s fast, he’s strong, he’s relentless and he wants to knock you out with whatever will get the job done as soon as possible.
“I don't want to sound cocky, but I'm so confident in my skills and in my abilities that I would allow one of my opponents - whoever wants to, they have got an invitation - to come and watch me train to fight them,” says Guillard. “It doesn't matter what they see of me sparring or hitting mitts and all that, I don't mind it. As long as I'm confident in my abilities in that cage then it doesn't matter what they see. If you're going to win then you're going to win, if you're going to be ready to fight then you're going to be ready.”
With by far the majority of the 28 year old’s UFC wins coming by KO/TKO, including two “Knockout of the Night” bonuses, the safest bet against “The Young Assassin” is taking him to the ground, which is easier said than done. Guillard’s four losses in the Octagon are all by submission, with the most recent being Nate Diaz from two years ago and before he started training with Team Jackson. All fighters evolve and get better over time, so the model to beat Guillard is woefully outdated and the real challenge is finding a new one.
“I think the problem that fighters have who face me is that they sit down and spend too much time watching tape on me, trying to figure me out,” explains Guillard. “That's their Achilles heel because I'm not the same fighter, I'm always a better fighter, and none of my fights end the same. The only end result that you're going to get is that at some point I'm going to hit them and they're going to be out. As far as trying to figure me out, they think they're going to take me down and out grapple me, but I pride myself that it is going to take a lot to hold me down and half of these guys at 155 are not as strong as me anyway. I'm not saying it can't be done, but I go in very confident. I'm going in there to execute my gameplan and that's put my hands and feet on them. Even if they don't get knocked down right away, I've seen when I've hit guys that when I look them in the eye it is almost like it took the fight out of them. I've seen that in a couple fighters I've faced and I think I'm going to see that in Joe Lauzon come October 8th.”
At UFC 136 in Houston, Texas, Guillard squares off with Joe Lauzon. The Ultimate Fighter season five alum will most likely use his vaunted submission skills that earned him a 19-6 record with 15 wins by sub. The 27 year old has also been awarded four “Submission of the Night” bonuses, including a first round kimura on Curt Warburton in June. Lauzon is certainly very good at forcing his fellow 155ers to tap, but Guillard doesn’t see that in the cards come fight night.
“I think he's a tough opponent,” admits Guillard. “I wouldn't have asked for a fight that was an easy fight. He's going to be very tough. I know he is a good jiu-jitsu guy, but I haven't been submitted in over two years and him just coming in here and getting a submission - that ain't going to happen on my watch. I'm a way better fighter and I'm a way better person than who I was two years ago. There's nothing that he's going to throw at me that doesn't get thrown at me every day at the gym. I'm in there with guys like Carlos Condit and Donald Cerrone who are good at jiu-jitsu. I have a whole squad of guys who are phenomenal at jiu-jitsu who could probably tap Joe Lauzon at any time. This is something I stress about MMA, is that when you have a guy like me on top of you - you don't want to play that jiu-jitsu game. Then you're really going to get knocked out and it's going to be a short night. It's not a BJJ tournament - this is MMA.”
Judging by Guillard’s last two appearances in the Octagon, Lauzon will need to work extremely quickly to latch a hold onto “The Young Assassin”. In January, Guillard trounced the rising star Dunham with knees for a TKO and a “Knockout of the Night” bonus in under three minutes. In July, he wasted even less time and knocked out the three-time All American wrestler Roller at 2:12 of the first round. It’s not only about the one punch power of his striking; Guillard’s strength is that he’s always attacking and he’s always on offense as soon as the cage door shuts.
“I have a lot respect for Shane Roller, he's a great fighter, and Evan Dunham's a great fighter too,” tells Guillard. “They are both great fighters and they are just as equally great as I am, but I don't give guys the chance to get started and that’s why I have the advantage. That's the way I fight. I'm not a slow paced fighter. I come out of the gate very fast. I come out looking to hit a guy right out of the gate. What won me my last two fights is my aggression. Most fighters try to get that feeling out round, but I don't have a feeling out round. I come out at 100 mph and that's how it should be. Whether it's a knee, a kick, a right hand or a left jab - it doesn't matter because everything I throw is with bad intentions. I'm not trying to outpoint a guy. I'm not trying to win a judge's decision. My main thing is to go in there and try to knock guys out - I'm a finisher. ”
Arguably, the most dangerous aspect of his game right now is that he’s maturing. Guillard’s had his mental lapses in the past and more than ever it appears that will all stay in the past. Guillard’s training camps in Albuquerque have progressed him as a fighter. Guillard’s marriage and life in Oklahoma has progressed him as a person. For really the first time, he is truly healthy, mentally and physically, and the benefits from that have shown in his past five fights.
This weekend, he needs to keep this winning streak alive against the Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist Lauzon. The main event of that same evening features UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard in a rematch of their UFC 125 draw. It has been mentioned by UFC President Dana White that if Guillard can score a win over Lauzon then he should be next in line for a title shot. For Guillard, there are simply no “ifs” about it.
“It's not about if I beat Joe, it's that I'm going to beat Joe,” declares Guillard. “I'm going to knock him out like I knocked the other guys out. I'm not worried about anything. I know I'm going to be world champion. I'm blessed that Dana White is giving me the opportunity to be on that stage. I'm going to beat Joe Lauzon on October 8th. This is my first fight in front of my loved ones because I'm from New Orleans, but I lived in Houston for seven years - it's my second home. I am going to be fighting in front of a home crowd and I haven't fought in front of a home crowd since before my Dad passed away. This fight has a lot of emotions in it, but it's good emotions. I'm excited. There's nothing that is standing in my way. The only thing that can beat me is me.”
With how good “The Young Assassin” has been looking recently, I’m not confident even Guillard could beat himself. Or does that sound too cocky?