Melvin Guillard (31-12-2) vs. Ross Pearson (15-6) Lightweight
When we last left our heroes...It's hard to believe but Guillard has been in the UFC since 2005. And he's only had one fight outside of the UFC since then.
And yet the profile on Melvin is the exact same now as it was then. "Melvin is insanely talented, and obviously dangerous, but he can't screw his head on straight to take his game to the next level"
It's the fallacy of wasted potential. People see his brutal striking and think his ability on the feet can translate to an ability on the ground, or more: a well-rounded game that will put him into the kind of title contention fans have long anticipated.
But they are mistaken. Guillard's narrative is no different than the countless fighters who fans felt could be more with just the right attitude. In point of fact, their attitude helps create who they are as fighters. Given Guillard's history, one could argue it has helped create his ability; the risk taking, the violence, etc.
I hate to play the role of armchair psychologist, but I think observers confuse the real narrative of Melvin's career.
With the psychobabble out of the way, he's coming off one of his impressive victories; a brutal KO over Mac Danzig in the only recent knockout win I can remember truly being disturbed by (if just for Danzig's reaction*).
Opposite Melvin is Ross Pearson, who is on a two fight winning streak. Pearson was one of those TUFers who actually turned into something interesting. He's only suffered three losses in his 10 fight UFC career thus far, and one of those was questionable against the hard hitting Edson Barboza.
For some, this is a classic overachiever vs. underachiever bout.
What both men can do: One of the things that has always stood out is Pearson's ability to box in the pocket. He throws crisp one-twos. With a strafing right hand, and a piercing left hook, he's been more than capable of beating striking ‘specialists' at their own game with plain old fundamentals.
I felt like he should have won the Barboza fight. But beyond his boxing craft, he's turned into a very well rounded mixed martial artist. His grappling in all phases has improved. He can defend takedowns, initiate some of his own, and has a nose for submissions even where he may not possess the knack for actually finishing them.
Melvin is the specialist Pearson has fared so well against lately. He displays a just plain evil right hand, but he also pumps a vicious jab when called upon, and has some very good kicks to the body and and leg. The thing that has always impressed me about Melvin's striking is not just his raw power, and speed, but his movement. While he doesn't always link his footwork with his punches well, it happens enough for me to truly appreciate the thought, as opposed to the mere "explosiveness" and "athleticism", that goes into his standup. You don't see Melvin get into brutal standup wars ala Diego Sanchez and that's because he picks his shots.
What both men can't do: However, Melvin has a tendency to head hunt, which is when he abandons some of his fundamentals. In addition, there's his ground game. This has been done to death, so I'll skip this part except to point out that Melvin needs to learn how to accept that you may be on the ground for a bit, and not be so quick to get back to your feet.
I don't think Pearson's ground game will be a factor though. All six of his submission losses in the UFC were to guys who specialized in that area. Although you might argue that Pearson's grappling is on par with Rich Clementi and Josh Neer's. Still, I don't feel like Pearson will have the speed to close the distance.
And I don't think he minds that. He wants to strike with Melvin. After all, for all of the praise dedicated to his striking, he's been outstruck on more than one occasion. The Joe Lauzon fight was flukish, but Melvin basically lost to a jab that he ran right into.
X-Factor: Which brings us to the random observation part. I feel like this is Pearson's fight to lose, however, it will be anything but easy. At the same time, it's difficult to shake the image of Pearson getting steamrolled by Cole Miller. Pearson struggles with guys who have the speed advantage. Again, see the Cub Swanson and Edson Barboza fights.
A TKO is not out of the realm of possibility. This fight is truly a coin flip. But these coin flip (on paper) fights always end up going to a decision. Because of that, I favor Pearson. I feel like he'll take the opportunity to counter when Melvin sits down on his punches. While it's the "safe" pick, it's not at all obvious. Nonetheless, I think Pearson gets his hand raised after getting dropped, only to come back with some dirty (and clean) boxing.
Prediction: Ross Pearson by Split Decision.
*If his surprisingly interesting Twitter account is any indication, he's recovered just fine.