Fresh off a head-scratching decision loss to former lightweight champion Sean Sherk, world-ranked fighter Evan Dunham returns to the cage against dangerous Melvin Guillard in the UFC "Fight for the Troops 2" headliner Saturday at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas.
The event also showcases a pair of heavyweight bouts of interest -- Matt Mitrione versus Tim Hague and Patrick Barry versus Joey Beltran -- and assorted matchups from the lighter weight classes.
A closer look at the main card follows:
Evan Dunham versus Melvin Guillard
The matchup: As usual, Guillard brings a lot of on-paper advantages into a fight, but how he will apply them is the lingering wild card. He's a powerful striker and is exceptionally strong. Dunham enjoyed a great 2010, scoring significant wins over "The Ultimate Fighter" Season 8 winner Efrain Escudero (submission) and Tyson Griffin (decision). After a disputed decision defeat to Sherk in September, Dunham's first career loss means very little. He remains a lightweight to watch.
Dunham will be tasked with controlling the range against Guillard, who excels at shuffling in and out of striking distance and dropping big bombs. Guillard doesn't want to get into a battle on the mat, where Dunham excels at transitions, threatening with submissions and constantly putting foes on the defensive. As such, Guillard will have to work his range appropriately, using his strikes before getting away cleanly. Dunham is strong in the clinch, using his height and tie-ups to bang away and score points.
On paper, as was the case in his fight with Nate Diaz at UFC Fight Night 19, this looks like one Guillard can win. However, he made a key error against Diaz and was submitted -- showing again how a single mistake can cost one dearly inside the Octagon, especially against talented lightweights.
The pick: Dunham is exactly that kind of guy, and he will survive a tough moment or two before finding an opening and exploiting it, winning by submission in the second. This will serve as a major chin test for Dunham, but it is also the kind of bout in which he can show his mettle and prove whether he deserves to move up another notch in the rankings.
Matt Mitrione versus Tim Hague
The matchup: When fighters in other weight classes go crashing to the mat after a takedown, they don't make the cage shake the way heavyweights do, which is just one reason the big guys always will be the red meat on the MMA menu. They also produce violent knockouts with a consistency rarely evidenced among the little guys. That makes Mitrione-Hague compelling.
Mitrione continues to improve after his hot-and-cold performances on Season 10 of "The Ultimate Fighter," as the former NFL player has shown stout hands and a sense of the timing, space management and tactics he needs to succeed in MMA.
Despite a limited background in the sport, Mitrione seems to be at home standing and letting his hands go with nice, comfortable combinations. At times, he seems a little too relaxed, but he doesn't come off like a ship lost at sea when pinned against the cage or on his back.
Hague, meanwhile, is one of those huge guys who presents problems for anyone not at the elite level. At 6-foot-4 and 265 pounds, he's a handful for opponents he can press against the cage or get on the ground. He likely will have the takedown advantage, and although he has proved willing to throw hard while standing, Mitrione is the better technical striker. That advantage means less between heavyweights, simply because they generate more knockout power, pound-for-pound.
For Hague to win, he has to execute in a series of well-timed attacks, pinning Mitrione against the cage, taking him down and punishing him from the top while running him out of gas and keeping him on the defensive. For Mitrione to emerge victorious, he will need to land effectively while avoiding tie-ups and pop up when taken down, all without taking too much damage from the powerful Hague.
The pick: The guess here is that a back-and-forth fight ensues through the first two rounds before Hague eventually pulls ahead en route to a third-round ground-and-pound stoppage or a hard-earned decision win.
Mark Hominick versus George Roop
The matchup: There are fights that seem designed to produce a desired result: largely to fill existing promotional needs. This is one of them. The UFC's newly minted 145-pound division is in desperate need of recognizable contenders for uber-champion Jose Aldo, and Hominick would be an easy sell in that role.
The 6-1 Roop scored the most significant win of his career with a knockout of Chan Sung Jung at WEC 51 in September, turning around a string of disappointing performances at the big-show level. He will fight until he's turned into hamburger, and Hominick will oblige him, as the Canadian doesn't have to worry about takedowns and has a long target in Roop on which to unload.
Although the division has some decent talent, the moderately stocked cupboard took two major hits at UFC 125, with two of the top 145-pounders losing via upset. With Mike Thomas Brown and Josh Grispi having dropped decisions to Diego Nunes and Dustin Poirier, and with the talented Chad Mendes still perhaps a win or more away from facing Aldo, this represents a monumental opportunity for Hominick. If he wins impressively here, he figures to get the next shot at the champ, allowing the UFC to keep Aldo busy while lining up another viable contender.
The pick: Look for Hominick to showcase his far superior technique, mixing in kicks with combinations and putting some real hurt on a game but limited opponent. Roop's options are pretty limited here. He's a true plugger who will soldier forth even if he gets hammered. Hominick will answer en route to a second-round KO.
Jason Probst is a contributor to Sherdog.com.