The UFC returns to the States after a phenomenal showing last weekend in Rio De Janiero, Brazil to present its inaugural “UFC on FX” card tonight from the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. The card kicks off with Mike Easton (8-0) welcoming Jared Papazian (13-6-1) to the Octagon in the bantamweight division. Hard-hitting heavyweights are set to collide when “HD” Pat Barry (5-5) meets Christian Morecraft (7-2). It is a battle of veterans in the co-main event when“Bang” Duane Ludwig (21-11) will hope to showcase his stand-up skills against the well-rounded “The Dentist” Josh Neer (32-10-1). The main event is one to remember as top lightweights “The Young Assassin” Melvin Guillard (27-9-1) and “The Mongoose” Jim Miller (20-3) prepare to engage with one another. Guillard and Miller were once on the verge of challenging for “The Answer” Frankie Edgar’s championship belt but after facing major setbacks, they will like nothing more to get back into the runnings even at the other’s expense.
At First Glance: Once at the cusp of their own title aspirations, Jim Miller and Melvin Guillard find themselves back in the shark tank that is the lightweight division after facing lopsided losses to fights many feel they should have won. Guillard was leaving his own trail of destruction until October when it suddenly came to halt in under a minute thanks to “J-Lau” Joe Lauzon (21-6). Miller was just one victory away from challenging for the belt until the former WEC champion “Smooth” Benson Henderson (14-2) outclassed him and put a grinding stop to his seven-fight win streak. Now as other potential contenders are surpassing Miller and Guillard in their own race for UFC gold, a victory at this point is pivotal if either man wants to keep their place or elevate slowly back up that 155lbs. division ladder.
In Depth: Miller and Guillard are both natural wrestlers who have taken different paths in their respective careers. Oddly enough, the approach each fighter has chosen to take has been the very kind that has troubled the other before. Explosive and with serious strength, Guillard opted the road to stand and trade and found much success in exchanging leather as a handful of his wins come from (T)KOs. As a wrestler with stellar striking, he’s in prime position to trouble Miller. The New Jersey native Miller is a solid stand-up fighter in his own right but as Benson Henderson and even “The Bully” Gray Maynard (10-1-1) proved, a strong wrestler with great hands is all it can take to tame him. The antithesis to Guillard though is an unrelenting submission artist and this comes embodied in the form of Jim Miller. A majority of Guillard’s defeats stem from submission while they compose nearly half of Miller’s wins. “The Mongoose” has the stand-up skills himself but unlike Nate Diaz (14-8) or Joe Lauzon, his wrestling pedigree grants him an added edge to forcibly bring the fight towards the mat. For each fighter, it should be simple: Guillard needs to stay standing. Miller needs to grind it on the ground.
Wild Card: Cardio is an obvious factor that can easily decide the outcome of a fight but if there were a fight that called for it, here it is. Melvin Guillard’s career is revered for his ability to make a fight end on a whim thanks to his smash-mouth style which in turn has left him out of the judges’ hands for most of his career. Miller has been more apt at seeing the decision victory but continues to work relentlessly if the chance to stop a fight slips through his hands. Although this main event is barred from the five-round policy, should Miller be able to weather Guillard’s hardest shots and set the pace high, he could lure “The Young Assassin” into deeper waters the longer the fight goes on.
The Verdict: Guillard is looking most likely to blast his way back into the title race in order to refute his recent loss. He has the potential to do so but he is in a world of trouble if he cannot knock off Miller within a timely fashion. Here is where Miller will seek to draw in close for the takedown and outwork Guillard on the mat. Guillard will have to land his killshots early because if he has to try and match Miller’s pace, his stock is going to take a deeper dive which will be all the harder to bounce back from. Miller via Submission (Rear Naked Choke), Round 2