Unfortunately due to non-MMA related things happening this week, I’ll only have time to write about two of this weekend’s fights. I’ll recap my picks for all the fights on Friday and be back in full force next week to cover UFC 171.
If the UFC wanted to have Melvin Guillard fight the opponent most similar to him in the lightweight division, they succeeded by matching him up against Michael Johnson. Both fighters are primarily strikers who have terrific knockout power for the division. Both fighters have strong takedown defense although their opponents attempt takedowns against them constantly. Both fighters have a weak ground game and the vast majority of their losses are by submission. So in a fight like this, which fighter has the overall edge?
I have to believe this fight will end up being a striking match the vast majority of the time. Guillard used to land takedowns on a somewhat frequent basis, but in recent fights has scrapped that approach and embraced his identity as a pure striker. Guillard has only landed one takedown in his last 12 fights. Meanwhile, Johnson has the reputation of a wrestler from his stint on The Ultimate Fighter, but has only landed four takedowns in ten UFC fights. While both fighters could theoretically benefit from landing some well-timed takedowns against each other, their recent histories suggest that they’re going to keep this fight on the feet.
In a striking match the numbers show slight advantages for Guillard in a lot of categories:
||Significant Strikes Landed per Minute
||Significant Strikes Absorbed per Minute
||Significant Strike Ratio (Landed:Absorbed)
||Significant Strike Margin (per Minute)
||Significant Strikes per Knockdown
Johnson lands strikes more frequently, but Guillard absorbs fewer strikes, is more accurate, is better at out-pacing his opponents, and has better pure knockout power. There’s a reason Guillard’s opponents attempt more takedowns against him than anybody else in the division – standing and striking against him is playing with fire. On paper, Guillard should be able to win this fight as long as it stays standing.
While those statistics portray this as a fight where Guillard should shine, there is an X-factor that narrows the gap between these two in my mind. That X-factor is Guillard’s age, or more specifically, his “fight age.” Guillard is only 30 years old but he’s been competing for over 11 years now, and has 47 professional fights on his record. He’s lost four of his last six fights (not including a no contest against Ross Pearson). He lost by knockout to Donald Cerrone and was staggered before being submitted by Joe Lauzon.
Guillard has only been knocked down twice and been knocked out once in the UFC, so his chin has historically been very good. However, with all the mileage he’s built up fighting in MMA, it’s possible that his chin and overall ability to fight are fading. If that’s the case, then the Melvin Guillard portrayed in the above numbers can’t be expected to show up anymore.
With all of that said, I’m not prepared to pick against Guillard in a fight likely to remain standing. Johnson is one of the most dangerous strikers Guillard could be matched up against, so I don’t favor him by much, but I do believe Guillard has what it takes to out-pace Johnson and win this fight.
Pick: Melvin Guillard by decision
DEGENERATE GAMBLER’S CORNER
Guillard opened as the underdog at +115 but has quickly moved to a slight favorite at -125. I can’t bet on Guillard at the current price – I don’t favor him by much so I need plus money to justify a bet. If Guillard moves to +120 or better then I’ll put some money down, but for now it’s a pass.