When we last left our heroes...Bla bla bla, Guillard and potential and whatever. I've devoted an entire piece about Guillard and the illusion of potential, so there's no reason to rehash the same old story.
At this point, Guillard's success will be proportional to the amount of favorable styles he's matched up with. Ross Pearson sort of qualified until the illegal knee, so let's count that one for the sake of argument.
We know what we're getting when it comes to Melvin, who has a 31-12-2 (2 NC) professional record. His introduction to the UFC was symbolic of his career, with its ups and downs. He had the mouth of a blue chip prospect...just not the the arms and legs of one. After losing to Josh Burkman in the TUF house, he would beat Marcus Davis and then lose to Josh Neer (though like usual, he looked good on the feet until then).
Since then he's simply been a fighter who's won some, and lost some. Johnson didn't receive much hype, unlike Guillard, but he's beginning to acquire some. His 6-4 record isn't impressive on the surface. Especially with losses to Myles Jury and Reza Madadi. These are two fine fighters, but they look out of place when compared to his last two wins: in this case, Joe Lauzon and Gleison Tibau.
Both men are looking to get another big fight, so this is a must win in its own way. They don't have to worry about a pink slip. But they do have to worry about slipping away from the necessary high profile matchups.
What both men can do: When he's at his best, Melvin is a guy who moves around waiting patiently for the big shot. While his vicious knockouts make him look like a brawler on the surface, he's not the guy who swings aimlessly. He loves looking for a right hand aimed straight to the body, or head and he can pump a mean jab when he's committed.
While I would list his ground game as an asset, who is an offensive threat with his wrestling. Of course...that's where it all ends.
Johnson is similar to Guillard in that he uses motion and movement and set up his strikes. But what Johnson does better than Melvin is use that movement to take the fight to the ground when necessary, where he displays some very efficient ground and pound. Nonetheless, he's become a striker by trade, and was an absolutely surgeon with his punches against Joe Lauzon. His combinations seem to get better and better, so it's great to think we could have a striking battle between the two.
What both men can't do: I don't think Melvin is the kind of guy who will ever be at peace. Neither his mind, nor his body allow him the kind of comfort necessary to be patient in the cage. It has always been the hallmark of his defeats: the fight hits the ground, and rather than picture how he's gonna have to defend, he pictures how he needs to get up. It's a conflation of priorities.
This will always be Melvin's weakness. If he couldn't figure it out in his 47 pro fights, he won't figure it out in his next 10. It's also nothing to be ashamed of. Fans like to blast Guillard for his lack of mental strength, as if jiu jitsu is an afternoon crossword puzzle. But just like not everyone can develop into a good, efficient boxer, not everyone can develop into a defensive grappling machine.
This would be a good time to test that fortitude though. Johnson doesn't fight as well off his back. It's a very intriguing matchup (this whole main card ranks pretty high on the ultra violence scale), but one you have to think favors Johnson. His combinations will keep the takedowns open at all times. I'm not confident Johnson will avoid being hit though.
He's still a defensive liability, and doesn't always keeps his hands up the longer the fight goes. I'm also not sure he'll want the fight on the feet in the first place. With Melvin's movement, I have a feeling it's gonna turn into one of those stalk, stalk, combination, stalk, takedown kind of bouts where there's simply a lot of respect thrown both ways. It's hard to say, but I'm going with Johnson because I think his takedowns will be set up well by his combinations, which are a threat all their own.
X-Factor: Duh. Melvin's face melting power. Whether to the body, or the head, Guillard has the ability to stop anything with a heartbeat in one punch.
In-Fight Soundtrack: An impressive win for either man won't be...'nothing to f*** with' (ho ho).
Prediction: Michael Johnson by Decision.