Sometimes it feels like the more we see of the top competitors in the UFC lightweight division, the less we know about them.
Or at least that’s how it felt on Saturday, when 2-1 underdog Melvin Guillard didn’t just defeat the heavily favored Evan Dunham in the main event of the company’s Fight for the Troops 2 show, he steamrolled him. He blitzed him. He blew him out of the water.
From the opening bell last weekend it was clear that Dunham – who most already had ticketed for stardom at 155-pounds – had no answer for Guillard’s speed and power. The five-year Ocatgon vet paradoxically still referred to as “The Young Assassin” landed a lightning-fast right hand in the early going that Dunham never recovered from. By the time Guillard finished him off a couple minutes later with a trio of knees along the fence, the lightweight pecking order appeared even more chaotic than when we started.
“I’m going to go undefeated in 2011 and get a title shot this year,” Guillard announced on the mic immediately following. “(In) 2012 at the latest.”
It’s good to have goals, though at this point it’s safe to say the lightweight gods pretty much laugh their asses off any time someone in that weight class announces their plans.
In defeating Dunham, Guillard effectively injected himself into the UFC’s most competitive title picture. As if we needed another guy in the hunt at 155-pounds, where steady-eddies like Jim Miller and rising stars like George Sotiropoulos and Anthony Pettis are already waiting. Not to mention the fact that champ Frankie Edgar seemingly already has to fight everybody twice before we believe he’s the better man.
There is a lot to like about Guillard right now. He’s currently riding a four-fight win-streak and is undefeated since turning his career over to noted strategist Greg Jackson. Make no mistake however, he still has a lot to prove. His performance against Dunham may have been the best of his career, but it was also something of a throwback.
It’d be hard to argue that the 2005 or 2006 version of Melvin Guillard wouldn’t have fought Dunham the exact same way he did on Saturday night. In some ways, that’s good thing. At least it took some sting out of UFC President Dana White’s recent criticism of Jackson fighters as “safety first” guys who angle primarily for decisions. On the other hand, it makes it impossible to tell if Guillard has truly reinvented himself under Jackson, or if he was just a terrible matchup of styles for Dunham from the beginning.
The good news, I guess, is that we’ll probably get to find out soon. In the shark-infested waters of the lightweight division, nobody has time to rest on their laurels, no matter how dramatic their last win seemed. With all the talking Guillard did prior to this bout – calling out Kenny Florian by name, even – you can bet he’s going to get a stiff test from one of the division’s top contenders sooner rather than later.
Maybe then we’ll have a better idea of exactly what we’re dealing with here. Or, maybe more likely, we’ll just get more confused.
Chad Dundas writes about MMA for CraveOnline, Versus.com and CagePotato.com. He lives in Missoula, MT.