At age twenty-eight, "The Young Assassin" boasts a startling forty fights on his record (29-8-2, 1 No Contest overall; 10-4 UFC record) after nearly a decade in the sport; twenty-seven year old Lauzon clocks in with twenty-six fights (20-6 overall; 7-3 UFC record) and over seven years in the cage.
Guillard emerged as an unguided missile with fiery kickboxing and undeniable athleticism and instincts, which Greg Jackson has now whittled into more polished and controlled machinery. Lauzon made pre-TUF waves with his violently aggressive submission armory coupled with boxing adequate enough to vanquish former lightweight champ Jens Pulver.
Both fighters have demonstrated superiority over the mid-level talent in the stacked 155-pound class but struggled against the division's elite.
From a rankings standpoint, though beyond his control, Guillard has pieced together a sturdy five-fight hitch while winning eight of his last nine, but almost every opponent was ranked beneath him, prohibiting his ascension despite his clear improvement and surge in momentum. Compensating for defeats to the upper echelon (Kenny Florian, Sam Stout, George Sotiropoulos), Lauzon has been a prodigious finisher against his remaining opponents (5 subs, 2 TKOs).
Gifs and analysis in the full entry.
There's no magic to this striker vs. grappler match up, which drastically favors Melvin Guillard.
His blinding barrage of head-cleaving stand up has been supercharged with fundamentally sound footwork, balance, takedown defense and slippery scrambling skills.
He's maintained his massive power while eliminating the bad habit of over-committing and losing his balance.
Even in the two risky jumping kicks to the right, Guillard stays upright with his footing underneath him.
In the past, Guillard's raw strength and agility was usually enough to avoid being taken down or held there, but that same natural talent simply propels him further now that it's conjoined with bulletproof technique.
Though once again flirting with danger by dropping his hands and letting Roller corner him against the fence, Guillard wisely swipes his combination low to counter a potential level drop but ends up catching Roller's chin instead.
This leaves him a prime target for well placed punches but his iron-clad chin (no TKO losses) has yet to waver.
Guillard adheres to the same, simple strategy against yet another aspiring takedown artist in Evan Dunham.
First we see the graceful dexterity of Guillard bouncing on his toes lightly while exploding into range with picture-perfect punches.
The importance of balance factors in when Dunham doggedly pursues the single and Guillard blasts him with hammer-fists after sitting back on Dunham's shoulders.
When Dunham sneakily transitions from the single to the rear waist cinch, check out Guillard's unbelievable balance to stay on his feet and his intelligent hand-fighting to keep Dunham from taking his back; which he's done successfully in many of his fights from the standing position.
To Dunham's credit, he ends up putting Melvin on his back in the sequence above, but Guillard's other shiny new toy negated the takedown.
Guillard has become eerily comfortable in butt-scooting away to put his back on the fence and use it to stand. If his legs aren't free, he shifts to a feisty double butterfly guard and thrusts on his opponent's hips to create the necessary space.
Smooth as silk, Melvin glides into range (left) and pops Dunham with a crisp combo to wrap it up.
Though only billed as a purple belt in BJJ, Joe Lauzon menacingly snatches his submissions with the aggressive mentality of a catch wrestler more than the fluidity of a BJJ player.
What's made it difficult to apply his strength is the lack of a reputable wrestling pedigree. However, I like the way Lauzon has filled that hole, which is to be just as effective in grounding the fight by way of ruthlessly cast punches.
Like any grappler welcoming the takedown, Lauzon takes full advantage by throwing every ounce of power he has into his punches at close range.
After sending Curt Warburton sailing to the canvas, Lauzon unleashes his fury from the top.
J-Lau has about the same level of ceaseless ferocity on the mat that Guillard has standing. His pace is blindingly frenetic yet he rarely sacrifices technique because of it.
Amidst the hail of vicious ground and pound, Lauzon shows some serious cage savvy by blasting a knee to the body; probably the most criminally under-used technique on the ground in MMA.
The barely discernible pretzel that Lauzon twists Warburton into has been dubbed "The Trimura" in the Bloody Elbow Judo Chop breaking down the wizardry.
Lauzon latches the figure-four grip to apply insurmountable pressure on the shoulder while stabilizing Warburton with his leg position.
Once he clamps his feet it's a literal tap-or-snap situation.
Despite his admirable improvement, Guillard's seven submission losses still glare brightly on his record. He's in a world of hurt if Lauzon can get him (and keep him) on the mat.
Unfortunately, Lauzon's tendencies when pressured with punches and absence of significant takedown skills make this a horrible match up.
To the left against George Sotiropoulos, you can see Lauzon get caught a little flat-footed on the advance with his chin far too unprotected.
Offensively, Lauzon is a serious threat with punches, so I wouldn't rule out the chances of him catching Guillard. It's his defensive lapses that don't bode well.
Lauzon does pose a threat to lock up the clinch or a takedown merely through his assertiveness.
He does have good quickness and his long frame allows him to cover a lot of ground, but most of that prowess lies in straight-line motion rather than the subtle angles and pivots that Guillard will throw his way.
This was the only fight on the card that I felt 100% confident in picking.
If I've learned anything, it's that the feeling should elicit bells and whistles for an impending upset. It seems like the most shocking wins accompany that type of assurance in the outcome.
Lauzon's ideal approach is to tone down his raucous advances to incorporate more technical footwork and better striking defense.
His balls-out punching style might be better adapted to catch Guillard because of it's power and unpredictability.
Additionally, his full-bore grappling pace should be tempered to include a fixation on controlling Guillard if he can get him down.
Lauzon can't afford to start over if he can ground the fight and should endeavor to finish out the round in that position rather than risk an escape.
Normally, he'll devour any opportunity to sweep, pass guard or lock a submission, such as the flying heel hook in the animation above. That approach definitely leaves Guillard more chances to use his clever scrambling to stand back up or inflict damage with his strikes. Then again, taking a crazy risk might be worth the gamble.
Guillard is the clear pick because he just has to do exactly what he's been doing, which seems to get better and better with each showing.
My Prediction: Melvin Guillard by TKO
Lauzon vs. Warburton gifs via Grappo
All others via Zombie Prophet of IronForgesIron.com