Melvin Guillard has been a maddening blend of talent and inconsistency. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
After three weeks of inactivity, the Ultimate Fighting Championship returns to network television for UFC on Fox 8 this Saturday at KeyArena in Seattle.
Headlined by a flyweight title conflict between reigning champion Demetrious Johnson and once-beaten challenger John Moraga, the main card will also see welterweight prospect Rory MacDonald take on Jake Ellenberger, while veteran Robbie Lawler battles injury replacement Bobby Voelker. Additionally, former UFC women’s title challenger Liz Carmouche will also make her network television debut, as the “Girl-Rilla” takes on Brazilian newcomer Jessica Andrade.
Prior to the main card broadcast, the show’s preliminary draw airs live on FX and Facebook. Here are five reasons to tune in for the undercard:
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If you watch Melvin Guillard for long enough, you are bound to be both exhilarated and frustrated.
Many people smarter than this writer have said it before: Guillard is as naturally gifted as they come, and he is capable of the most spectacular of performances. Unfortunately, the lightweight has proved just as prone to making mental or strategic errors in the cage and has sometimes fought down to the level of his competition. NBA fans, imagine “Trick or Treat” Tony Allen’s mental lapses coupled with LeBron James’ ungodly build and abilities for a proper visual.
This is why, in spite of his undeniable talent, Guillard has lost four of his last five fights. While it is certainly easy for an armchair quarterback like me to use the benefit of hindsight to claim that Guillard leaving Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts for the Blackzilians was a bad idea, I must admit that most of us kind of saw that one coming. Now stationed at Grudge Training Center with Trevor Wittman, Guillard hopes to hit the brakes on his skid and return to the form that saw him demolish the likes of Evan Dunham and Shane Roller.
Standing opposite “The Young Assassin” will be veteran Mac Danzig, who has also struggled to find consistency in his UFC career. Which man will right his ship?
Michael Chiesa is a man who takes care of his business.
Unbeaten in nine professional appearances, “Maverick” ran through “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 15 field in 2012, overcoming a game Justin Lawrence in the tournament quarterfinals before finishing James Vick and Al Iaquinta to claim the title of “Ultimate Fighter” winner. More recently, the Washingtonian took out Finnish veteran Anton Kuivanen at UFC 157 in February. Chiesa is not going to wow anybody with his raw standup attack, but the grappler possesses an endearing level of toughness and has a knack for dragging his opponents to the mat, where he usually ends their nights in short order.
Jorge Masvidal will undoubtedly be Chiesa’s toughest test to date. The former Strikeforce title challenger possesses sharp, tight boxing and underrated takedown defense. Known for his excellent jab and use of range, as well as his fearless fighting style, Masvidal might just be the man to hand Chiesa his first pro loss. Regardless of how this one goes down, it will be worth a watch.
Dirty Bird on the Rebound
Prior to the unanimous decision defeat at the hands of “Gamebred,” Means posted back-to-back wins to begin his Octagon career following a King of the Cage run that saw him capture the lightweight and junior welterweight titles. Put simply, Means does not mess around when he gets in the cage, as exemplified by his 13 career knockouts and his especially brutal finish of Justin Salas in his sophomore UFC effort.
Likewise, Castillo has also made a name for himself with his ability to punish his foes with his heavy hands. The Team Alpha Male standout has won four of his last five fights and returns to action following a February decision win over Paul Sass, which signaled the end of the Brit’s first UFC tour. Can Castillo hand Means consecutive defeats for the first time or will “The Dirty Bird” fly high once more?
Daron Cruickshank has plenty of tools at his disposal, but will they prove sufficient to guide “The Detroit Superstar” to a sustained career in the UFC’s ultra-competitive lightweight division?
Cruickshank is a big lightweight and a solid athlete who possesses exciting and diverse if not necessarily elite striking skills. “The Detroit Superstar” is also a decent scrambler, though his offensive wrestling still leaves much to be desired, as exhibited in his most recent outing, which saw Canadian tae kwon do stylist John Makdessi shuck off several of Cruickshank’s takedown attempts en route to a unanimous decision victory over the American.
Still, I will never forget the simultaneously sickening and beautiful sound of Cruickshank’s right foot crashing into Henry Martinez’s temple. Few mixed martial artists are capable of executing that technique with such speed, power, flexibility and timing.
Can Cruickshank erase the memory of his loss to Makdessi when he meets Yves Edwards, who also hopes to avoid consecutive defeats in his second Octagon appearance of 2013?
The Iron Lady
Germaine de Randamie might be the best striker in all of women’s mixed martial arts.
The muay Thai world champion transitioned to MMA in 2008 and signed with Strikeforce in 2011, debuting at bantamweight before moving up to 145 pounds to meet Julia Budd, whose blanket impersonation netted her a unanimous decision over “The Iron Lady.” De Randamie then returned to the Strikeforce cage one year ago against Hiroko Yamanaka, who found herself outgunned and outclassed. Unfortunately for de Randamie, this performance was broadcast on Showtime Extreme, meaning that about nine people -- not including the Sherdog staff -- actually watched it.
Now returning to 135 pounds for her UFC debut, de Randamie has been paired with one of the world’s best bantamweights in Julie Kedzie, a well-rounded, 26-fight pro who nearly upset Miesha Tate last year. How will de Randamie and her elite striking skills fare against such a seasoned opponent?