For some reason, I’ve always had some misguided sense of belief that Melvin Guillard was eventually going to live up to his talent and become a top-tier lightweight. There have been dozens of reasons that should have caused me to back off of this idea over the years, and yet, certain that he would turn everything around and start knocking out every 155-pounder in sight, I kept on believing in “The Young Assassin.”

Since joining the UFC following The Ultimate Fighter 2 in 2005, Guillard has failed a drug test, been cut from the promotion for trying to attack an opponent after the bell, and has bounced around enough to train at almost every major gym in the United States. That’s a ton of baggage, and it doesn’t even get into the weaknesses Guillard has displayed while actually competing. Basically, if he wasn’t so damn talented, most fans would have given up on Guillard a long time ago.

From the second Guillard hit television screens as a cast member of TUF 2, he had a certain charisma that made him one of the stars of the first episode. Although his mouth may have been getting to some of his housemates, his talent was undeniable. Guillard ended up being the first fighter eliminated on the show, but he was able to score a win on the show’s finale a few months later to earn a UFC roster spot. From that moment on, Guillard’s career has been one of the most erratic in UFC history.

Every time my hope for Guillard would diminish, he’d do something incredible to change my mind. When Guillard was cut from the UFC after failing a drug test and then attempting to fight Rich Clementi after the bell in 2007, it seemed like that was it. Less than a year later, though, “The Young Assassin” was back inside the Octagon and looking better than ever when he destroyed Dennis Siver in under a minute. Needless to say, I remained seated on the Guillard hype train.

Following his release, Guillard went on the best stretch of his UFC career, and it looked like he was finally going to reach the heights that I had always expected of him in his career. In the midst of a 7-1 record since returning to the UFC and with a five-fight winning streak on the line, Guillard headed to Houston to take on Joe Lauzon at UFC 136. With Guillard having roots in Texas and more momentum than he knew what to do with, it seemed like the UFC was sending Lauzon out to be slaughtered against a fighter who would have nearly every physical advantage. The fight was deemed a blowout before the fighters even hit the scales for the weigh-ins, and it wasn’t until Guillard’s walk to the cage that fans began to sense disaster was in the air for “The Young Assassin.”

A certain aura of confidence is essential for the success of a mixed martial artist. If a fighter doesn’t believe that he or she is going to win, then they probably won’t win. To win fights—and even to just be competitive—a fighter has to have a decent amount of confidence in their abilities before they ever step into the cage. What Guillard had before stepping into the cage against Lauzon was a completely different level of confidence. The certainty of victory was practically oozing out of Guillard with every step towards the cage, and he looked like he was planning out his victory celebration for after the fight in his head. Lauzon would later say that he felt Guillard was “overconfident.” That’s so much of an understatement, it’s ridiculous. I’m reasonably sure that Guillard would have bet the house on a win that night, and by the house, I mean his actual home.

Guillard’s overconfidence was so apparent that when Lauzon landed a quick punch to rock “The Young Assassin” to kick off the bout, it almost seemed like it was destined to happen. It seemed pretty clear that Guillard was underestimating “J-Lau,” even though Lauzon had done more than enough inside the Octagon to earn Guillard’s full respect and attention in the cage. Lauzon made him pay immediately with the punch, and before Guillard really knew what hit him, he was tapping out to a rear-naked choke a mere 42 seconds into the bout. Just like that, Guillard’s winning streak and all of the hype that went along with it were gone.

The loss to Lauzon happened in late 2011, and if we’re being honest, that’s when everyone should have finally hopped off the hype train. A lackluster 1-3 stretch followed, with two of those losses coming in under three minutes, and it appeared that Guillard was all but done. Not only was he losing fights at an unusually high clip, but he was losing in the stand-up game, which had been his bread and butter in the past. Following an insane high-kick knockout loss to Donald Cerrone and a lackluster effort against Jamie Varner to try to avoid two straight losses, Guillard had me ready to give up hope. Then, in typical Guillard fashion, he fooled me again.

Back-to-back brutal finishes against Mac Danzig and Ross Pearson—Guillard landed an illegal knee against Pearson and wasn’t awarded a victory, but it was still an impressive stoppage—were enough to renew my confidence in Guillard as he prepared to go against steadily rising lightweight Michael Johnson at UFC Fight Night 37 last weekend. Well, it turns out that confidence was not deserved.

Johnson was able to easily outpoint Guillard en route to a unanimous decision win, but it was Guillard’s lack of, well, anything, that signaled this fight as the end of the fighter’s run as a lightweight that can be taken seriously in the UFC’s 155-pound division. Guillard has been prone to mental mistakes inside the cage every once in a while, but the one thing he never had a problem with was his ability to get going on the feet and be aggressive. Sometimes, his aggressiveness came back to haunt him, especially in fights like the Nate Diaz bout, where Guillard practically dove head first into a choke while trying to knock the younger Diaz unconscious. Occasionally, he would get shut down by a high-level wrestler and start to hesitate to throw his hands, but in a straight up striking match, Guillard has never been shy when it comes to throwing bombs.

At least, that’s what we thought before watching Guillard run in circles and throw counter shots at Johnson for 15 minutes last weekend in his losing effort. The trademark Guillard explosiveness never emerged. The outrageous hand speed was never unleashed. The granite chin “The Young Assassin” once owned was tested more than once, and the killer instinct that Guillard bragged about almost a decade earlier on The Ultimate Fighter 2 seemed all but gone.

For the first time, Guillard’s talent, not just his performance, appeared as mediocre as his record inside the Octagon, and that was enough to finally convince me to abandon my belief in Guillard ever putting things together. He might win another fight or two in the Octagon, but it’s time to officially throw the bust label on Guillard. To be honest, it’s been a long time coming.

About The Author

Vince Carey
Staff Writer

Vince Carey has been writing about the sport of mixed martial arts since 2010. Although he is just 21 years old, the Omaha-based writer is looking to provide readers with interesting content on all things related to MMA.

  • Jake

    When u think about it there’s nothing wrong with being a mid-tier fighter. I mean everybody cant be great