MMA: TUF Finale 16

Guillard can salvage 2012 with one swing

December, 13, 2012
12/13/12
11:17
AM ET
Mindenhall By Chuck Mindenhall
ESPN.com
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Melvin GuillardJosh Hedges/Getty ImagesMelvin Guillard is looking to rebound from a first-round knockout loss to Donald Cerrone at UFC 150.
When Melvin Guillard stepped into the Octagon against Donald Cerrone at UFC 150 in Denver, it became a night of dubious firsts, because Guillard had never missed weight before, and he had never been knocked out.

You know how things unfolded.

The late booking between longtime buddies went down at a catchweight of 157.5 because Guillard -- fighting for the second time in a month -- couldn't shed the 20 pounds necessary without compromising his health. It was the first time he'd failed to make weight in his career, and it cost him 10 percent of his purse.

And then, after staggering Cerrone very early, he took a head kick and a subsequent punch that dropped him cold. Boom. Guillard, whose chin has stood up through 44 professional MMA bouts, was knocked blotto for the first time in his career.

It was not the kind of firsts Guillard was looking for. But then again, he did take the fight on only a few weeks' notice after having gone through a big weight cut for his fight with Fabricio Camoes at UFC 148.

"What happened in Colorado was I'm sweating good and everything's going great and then about halfway through the cut my body wouldn't produce a sweat," Guillard told ESPN.com. "That was because a lot of my vital organs were shutting down, and my body was saying hell no. From a medical standpoint I could have hurt myself a lot more. It made it a little more embarrassing than anything. It was embarrassing for myself, and it was embarrassing for the sport."

The silver lining was that both Guillard and Cerrone took home $60,000 for fight of the night honors. That part was nice. The colder reality of it was that Guillard lost for the third time in four fights while Cerrone hurtled off into contention. A year ago it was Guillard who was riding a five-fight winning streak into Houston against Joe Lauzon, potentially as the No. 1 contender.

Regrets? No, Guillard just wants to see some favors returned.

"I have no regrets, but 'Cowboy' owes me a fight in New Orleans," Guillard says. "If that card ever pops up in New Orleans again, he owes me that redo in my hometown."

Needless to say, it's been a tough 2012 for Guillard, but he has a chance to end it on a high note against Jamie Varner on Saturday night at the Ultimate Fighter 16 Finale in Las Vegas.

Though Varner's coming off of a loss, too, he arrives from the other end of the spectrum, and the erstwhile WEC 155-pound champ is in the process of resurrecting his own career. He made the most of his second chance by scoring an upset victory over Edson Barboza as a fill-in back in May. And though he ended up getting choked out by Lauzon in August, it was a back-and-forth fight that won FOTN.

If you follow the fight game, you know these things are always circular, as it was Lauzon that snapped Guillard's five-fight winning streak at UFC 136. In any case, draw up the Guillard-Varner fight on paper and you will be looking at a sketch of a burning barn.

"Jamie's a good guy," Guillard says. "I've never had any animosity towards him, and I think he's a hell of a fighter. I'm honored to even fight the guy -- he's the former WEC champion, so I'm looking forward to it being knockout of the night, and maybe even fight of the night for both of us.

"Don't get me wrong, though -- he's a great guy and all, but I still plan on knocking his head off his shoulders. For me, I don't need to build fake animosity and fight a good fight. I love to fight and I love to perform, and I have an opportunity again to put on a great show before the end of the year."

Guillard, who has been training at the Blackzilians in Delmar Beach, Fla., for the past year, is due. Going back to his knockout of Dennis Siver at UFC 86, there's been a clear pattern. He got knockout of the night against Siver, went five fights, then knocked out Evan Dunham and earned knockout of the night again.

Guess what? That was five fights ago. Time for him to showcase his hands again?

"You know me, man, it's always time for that," he says. "But the big thing is, I've been doing a lot of jiu-jitsu with my team down at Blackzilians. I actually competed with the Gi and No-Gi tournaments, and I've been doing very well. I'm excited about my all-around game right now.

"And I know in the back of Jamie Varner's mind -- he's not crazy, he has a puncher's chance -- but I think the odds are always in my favor when it comes to striking. He's a dynamic striker, don't get me wrong, but when guys step in the ring with me, they don't really want to trade punches. I'm probably the hardest-hitting 155er in the class right now. I think Varner, when he gets hit with the first one, he's definitely going to try and take me down to the ground."

Probably. And it's also Guillard's chance to get back up.

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