At UFC 136, the third and final meeting of two of the most explosive, most talented lightweights in the world, challenger “The Bully” Gray Maynard (10-0) and champion “The Answer” Frankie Edgar (13-1), will finally settle the score and determine who is the best 155lbs. fighter in the world. UFC Featherweight Champion and wrecking ball “Junior” Jose Aldo (18-1) returns from his first successful title defense over “The Machine” Mark Hominick (19-8) at UFC 129 and will meet with a man who is ever evolving in the sport, “Ken-Flo” Kenny Florian (14-5). Florian is coming off an exciting performance over “The Gun” Diego Nunes (15-4) that also marked his debut in the 145lbs. division. The most colorful fighter in the middleweight ranks, Chael Sonnen (24-11), is returning to the Octagon against the unanimously revered former WEC Light Heavyweight Champion and former US Marine “All-American” Brian Stann (11-3). With the weight of the promise of a title shot upon their shoulders both Stann and Sonnen will bring down the house down until only one man is left standing. Longtime featherweight contender “Bad Boy” Leonard Garcia (15-7) will have a rematch with Nam Phan (18-10) that has been on the minds of fans since December 2010 when Garica walked away with a highly contested Split Decision. New and improved lightweight “The Young Assassin” Melvin Guillard (27-8) will look to extend his current win streak with another victory over another brand name opponent in “J-Lau” Joe Lauzon (20-6). Lauzon is looking to win by any means necessary in order to climb back up the 155lbs. ladder towards the big names and UFC gold and is a dangerous threat in his own right.
At First Glance: Since being taken under famed trainer Greg Jackson’s wing, Melvin Guillard has grown not only as a fighter but also as a man, and rendering it unnecessary for the MMA community to look any further than “The Young Assassin” in the search for a top-level contender. Joe Lauzon, on the other hand, is in need of a break out win to escape the cycle of rises and falls he has gotten himself in to, going 2-2 since 2010. The submission ace who practically grew up in the Octagon is looking to snatch one of Guillard’s limbs and trade it for that much needed win, but he will have to deal with the high octane offense his foe brings to the table as well as the momentum Guillard’s current streak has built leading into the bout. A win means a crack at title contention for “The Young Assassin”, but for Lauzon, it means a return to form and job security for at least another several months.
In Depth: Guillard is happy to take the fight wherever it goes, but his last couple fights have taken place on the feet from beginning to end. Lauzon is the opposite. His world revolves around the Jiu-Jitsu game and the vast majority of his victories have come by submission. However, this fight goes much deeper than the typical style versus style pairing - it’s the overall situation that looms over both men. Inch by inch Guillard is moving toward the number one contender slot and a win over Lauzon puts him against the next worthy opponent for the contendership for the belt. Contrarily, Lauzon has his back against the wall; his last two defeats came after he gassed out late in the opening round only to then be picked apart until the end. If Lauzon fails to prepare himself in all aspects of the game, he could be in for yet another disappointing night, and a short one at that since this time it is the heavy-handed Guillard swinging at him. “J-Lau” may be the slightly taller of the two competitors but it is Guillard who makes for a very large lightweight fighter, and one who knows how to bully his opponents around the cage. Lauzon though does gain a slight reach advantage that he will gladly employ to keep Guillard at bay and pepper his lead leg with sharp kicks. More than anything Lauzon has to get the fight to the ground. If “J-Lau” can frustrate Guillard into swinging wildly, he could slip in and take the fight to the canvas until he gets in the position to lock onto a limb and hand the rising contender yet another submission loss. Guillard will likely take a completely different approach than the Jiu-Jitsu ace and will likely employ his ever improving striking to string together combos and overwhelm Lauzon with body shots and straight rights.
Wild Card: Lauzon’s ground game can prove to be his golden ticket against the extremely dangerous Guillard, but Guillard is also his own worst enemy. A gassed and emotional Guillard has been the result of all of his UFC losses, so if Lauzon can press the right buttons and bulldoze “The Young Assassin” to the ground, it will be only a matter of when, not if, Lauzon has Guillard tapping the canvas and awaiting the referee’s intervention.
The Verdict: A lot is riding on this fight at 155lbs. with two different reasons to fight hard for a win. For Guillard it’s all about fighting his way to the very top of the lightweight ranks, and with his own division’s title on the line the same evening, he will have a front row seat to see who he hopes to face in the near future. Of course first he has to best the renowned submission specialist Joe Lauzon, whose back is against the wall and is likely fighting for his job. Expect Guillard to use his aggressive pace and increasingly technical style of fighting to let his hands find a home against Lauzon’s head and body until “J-Lau” has had enough. Guillard via TKO (Strikes), Round 1