Two lightweights looking to rebound will meet one another this weekend when the explosive Melvin Guillard faces the tough veteran Jamie Varner. Both are coming off losses in which they failed to make it all 15 minutes, and both need a win to salvage what remains of their career.

It’s been a long road for both men.

Guillard was introduced to UFC fans when he appeared on the second season of The Ultimate Fighter. His flare was only matched by his amazing athletic ability. He could annoy you for an entire episode of TUF, but as soon as Guillard stepped in the cage, you couldn’t help but marvel at the man’s skills.

Possessing insane knockout power, Guillard went 3-1 to begin his UFC career. But just as it seemed as if Guillard was ready to turn the corner, his personal demons with drugs and maturity led the lightweight down a path of self-destruction. Enter Greg Jackson.

Guillard traveled to the well-respected camp run by one of MMA’s best coaches. The move paid big dividends as Guillard won five straight fights. But Guillard chose to leave Jackson’s and travel to the newest supercamp, the Blackzilians.

The lightweight is a meager 1-3 in his last four bouts and failed to make weight prior to being KO’ed by former teammate Donald Cerrone in August. Now he’ll face someone else who knows exactly what it’s like to overcome personal struggles.

Varner was on top of the world in 2008 after winning the WEC lightweight title. The Arizona native held a 15-2-2 mark and had just come off his first title defense. However, 2009 seemed to be the beginning of Varner’s undoing.

He won his contest with Cerrone, but gained a bad reputation after the fight ended due to an illegal groin strike. His rivalry with Cerrone was hotly contested, and it was clear both men deeply despised one another. It was also clear that MMA fans were siding with “Cowboy” over Varner in the rivalry.

Varner’s reputation took another hit when he lost to Benson Henderson, the current UFC lightweight kingpin. Instead of being gracious in defeat, Varner let his frustration be known.

He didn’t want to box. I came to fight, Ben came to grapple. Two different things.” (5thround.com)

It didn’t help that Varner also went after WEC golden boy and fan favorite Urijah Faber.

“It should be called The Urijah Faber Show instead of World Extreme Cagefighting. They keep giving Faber all of the big promotional deals, in fact they just hooked him up with Amp Energy Drink. Amp just became the official energy drink of the WEC. I called the WEC regarding Amp about two months ago because a buddy of mine who works with Pepsi told me about it. I asked the WEC to get me on board with them and they said they would see what they could do. Lo and behold Faber got the deal.” (MiddleEasy.com)

As you can see, it’s fairly easy to judge why Varner wasn’t a popular fighter in years past. Varner didn’t do much to help his career either as he went without a win in his final four appearances in the WEC. If Varner wanted to earn his UFC contract, he would have to do so on the regional circuit. He did just that by winning four of his five fights while competing on the regional level. The UFC came calling when the promotion needed a lightweight to face the highly-touted Edson Barboza.

It was Varner’s chance to shine, although fans believed he was nothing more than a sacrificial lamb for the Brazilian noted as the next coming of Anderson Silva. Instead, Varner rushed the young fighter and overwhelmed Barboza in the first round, securing a TKO stoppage.

However, Varner struggled with Joe Lauzon in his last fight, though a hand injury likely helped contribute to the loss. Still, Varner put up enough of a fight to earn “Fight of the Night” honors for that performance.

Now, both Varner and Guillard will look to erase their most recent losses and move up in the rankings, but you’d have to possess a great imagination to envision either man making a title run. Guillard has too many glaring holes in his game to take out the guys near the top, and Varner simply has yet to show enough to warrant consideration for being in the upper level of the division.

This may be a fight to see who secures their place as a gatekeeper in the lightweight division. Both men possess talents that make them a tough out for anyone in the division, but right now I don’t believe either can be labeled as a future title challenger. Of course, they’ll continue to put on exciting fights, and that’s a role the UFC always needs filling. 

Photo: Melvin Guillard (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

About The Author

Kyle Symes
Staff Writer

Kyle is a recent graduate of Aurora University, where he obtained a Bachelor's in Communications. Kyle resides in Illinois, just outside of Chicago. He played baseball and football in both high school and college, but is now focusing on an amateur MMA career.