While the world wonders how the former street fight champion of YouTube, Kimbo Slice, will fit into the already bizarre realm of reality TV, those of us with two brain cells to scrape together can look forward to UFC Fight Night on Wednesday. Oklahoma City, a home to both good in mega-baller Kevin Durant and pure evil in Garth Brooks, will play host to its first UFC card since Yeltsin’s booze-fueled heyday. With the titular main card matching Stockton trash-talker supreme Nate Diaz against his New Orleans equivalent in Melvin Guillard, the pre-fight interview highlights will be better than anything in television history.
The rest of the main card lives up to the same fistic standard. Roger Huerta will make his UFC return against the new blue-chipper of the lightweight class, Gray Maynard, while the king of the mean-face, Carlos Condit, locks up with UFC debutante Jake Ellenberger. Rounding out an evening of top-shelf violence is Tim Credeur putting his undefeated UFC run up against middleweight gatekeeper du jour, Nate Quarry.
Be honest with yourselves about your Wednesday night plans: You can either watch super-athletes fight for money or you can spend your night gambling on major network midseason replacements. I think anyone who watched “More to Love” will tell you that for the sake of your faith in the decency of humanity, just watch the fights.
Nate Diaz vs. Melvin Guillard
The Breakdown: One of the more unlikely UFC main events in recent memory finds Diaz desperately trying to put a two-fight losing streak behind him while Guillard is coming off a controversial but career-saving win over Gleison Tibau that some consider the biggest Christmas gift since Ralphie got his BB gun at the end of “A Christmas Story.” What really bailed out Guillard in his bout with Tibau was his ability to stuff the initial takedown attempt and cage walk his way out of trouble whenever Tibau finished. Diving forward for takedowns is not Diaz’s game, though, as he prefers to trade on the feet and transition to the mat during scrambles.
The first part of that approach will be critical as Guillard’s speed and power make him a constant knockout threat, albeit one with holes in his defense that Diaz’s southpaw stance is ready-made to exploit. Namely, Guillard keeps his left hand dangerously low and drops it down to the Mariana Trench whenever he leads with the jab. Much like his chronically chronic older brother, Diaz throws a lot of right hooks and it may be a matter of time before one finds Guillard’s suspect chin. As we’ve seen in his bouts with both Tibau and Joe Stevenson, once Guillard gets rocked, his all-universe takedown defense disappears faster than Alec at a Baldwin brothers reunion. Not good news for a fighter who gives up position far too easily and relies more on athleticism than skill on the mat.
The X Factor: Bravado runs deep for Diaz. He’ll have no qualms about trading with Guillard despite giving up speed, power and versatility on the feet to him. By the same token, Guillard was shooting double legs on Tibau, which was like watching a zebra fillet itself for a lion. Diaz will happily pull guard if Guillard makes the same mistake, but he may not get the chance to if he starts playing Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots first. Neither fighter is Bobby Fischer when it comes to strategy, but they’ll both need some to keep their flaws from becoming fatal.
The Bottom Line: For all the improvement Guillard showed in his match with Tibau, he still didn’t land much in the first two rounds and got soundly outclassed in the third. Against an opponent who is far more aggressive on the mat and better equipped to hold his own standing, Guillard will have even less margin for error and it’s always a matter of time before he starts leaving himself open. Expect Diaz to frustrate Guillard with the right hook-straight left combo early before putting the lights out by chin-checking Guillard and catching him mid-scramble with a textbook brabo choke.