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UFC on FX 1: Melvin Guillard vs. Jim Miller

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MMA fans will have a supberb fight to look forward to at the end of this week.

On Friday, January 20, New Orleans native Melvin ‘The Young Assassin’ Guillard (46-10-3) will pit his fast-twitch muscles against technical southpaw Jim Miller (20-3) in a lightweight bout. Both men are coming off losses, and need to raise their game a notch to complete a title run.

Miller suffered his second loss in the UFC last August when Benson 'Smooth' Hendersons speed and skill yanked Miller’s seven fight win streak out from under him. Miller performed well in the first round of that fight, but caved under the pressure of Henderson’s takedowns and ground and pound, in spite of being a wrestler and BJJ specialist. Miller’s previous loss had been in 2009 against Gray 'The Bully' Maynard---who recently fought current champ  Frankie Edgar in two straight title fights. Make no mistake: Miller is upper echelon, and needs only to tweak his game to make a serious run.

Uber-athletic Guillard is and always has been a power puncher who is extremely fast on his feet. In the past, his Achilles' heel has been takedown artists who submit him, as well as his free-wheeling strikes, which have left his own chin  exposed. However, these holes always appeared rooted more in Guillard’s psyche rather than in his skills or game plan. In spite of a lot of fights, The Young Assassin was immature. Flash forward.

Since moving camps to train with Greg Jackson, Guillard has become a much more dangerous, intelligent, patient fighter, and enters the Octagon with renewed confidence. He had accumulated an impressive five fight win streak, beating standout up-and-comer Evan Dunham  along the way, but his last fight was a submission loss to Joe Lauzon, who clipped Guillard and then jumped in for the kill, executing a rear-naked choke at :47 seconds of the first round. Déjà vu all over again.

Like an NFL cornerback who has just been beaten for a score, Guillard needs a short memory, and has to stay focused on what’s next to win. But Miller is too sly for Guillard and should finish him on the ground, in round 3, after utilizing those wiles to avoid Guillard's KO power.

While not a scintillating card, the UFC needs to be bringing along relatively unknown fighters like this, not merely on mostly unseen preliminary bouts. For wary fans, it's often these  lesser cards that bring the best matches for the money.

With 35 planned events for 2012, and brandishing their new contract with FOX, the UFC will be able to groom up-and-comers  in Octagon savvy, and educate fans in the process.

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