Potential is a difficult thing to carry in mixed martial arts.
Some fighters use it to bolster momentum toward the spotlight. When the eyes of the sport are watching, they rise to the occasion. Then there are others who crumble under the weight of expectations.
UFC lightweight Melvin Guillard has experienced both sides of the coin. Over his 15 fights in the UFC, "The Young Assassin" has built an impressive highlight reel of devastating finishes. He has also found himself on the downside, as he's come up short on several occasions.
Guillard possesses the talent to be one of the division's best but it's been a tale of "two steps forward, one step back" the entire way. He recently snapped a two-fight skid at UFC 148 in Las Vegas against Fabricio Camoes. In the fight Guillard displayed poise and patience as he worked out of several bad positions en route to the unanimous decision. The victory put Guillard back into the win column and he said he felt his work on the canvas was the biggest positive.
"If I took anything from my last fight it was that I was able to showcase my progression in the ground game," Guillard told Bleacher Report. "I've been working on it for so long. I was a little upset I wasn't able to finish my opponent. He was definitely tougher than he seemed. Every fight I go into I'm looking to finish and the fact that I couldn't upset me a little bit.
The next step on his journey will come against former teammate at Jackon/Winkeljohn's, Donald Cerrone, this weekend at UFC 150. Both men possess an exciting style and this clash is an early candidate for "Fight of the Night" honors. Where Cerrone has accuracy and a slick ground game, Guillard brings speed and put-away power. Guillard promises a war and is excited to throw down with his long-time friend.
"We match up very well," Guillard said. "His style is tailor made for me. He is one of those guys who likes to come forward and I have a proven track record of knocking out guys who do that. I hit hard and he's definitely tailor made for my style.
"Power is one of the biggest factors in any fight because if you hit a guy hard enough right out of the gate, it can change the entire dynamic of the fight. I pride myself on my power and speed as well as my ability to hit and not get hit back. I have my strong points and he has his.
"It's going to be a war. I'm going to try to put him away. It's not going to be an easy fight. It's definitely going to be a tough fight and I'm excited about it. I'm mentally focused right now. My mind is on entertaining the fans and going in there and getting my job done."
Just under a year ago Guillard was riding a five-fight win streak and within striking distance of a shot at the lightweight title. Everything appeared to be going exactly to plan until a shocking upset against Joe Lauzon at UFC 136 halted his momentum. It was a difficult loss for Guillard who appeared to be hitting his stride.
In his next outing he was submitted in the first round by Jim Miller and the defeat sent Guillard from possible contention to limbo in a highly competitive division. The fall from contention was difficult for Guillard. Back-to-back losses are never an easy thing to bounce back from and he expressed his displeasure with the media for adding extra pressure to the situation.
"I think the media puts an emphasis on everything," Guillard said. "Sometimes it seems like you guys really have nothing better to do than stir up the pot. Every fight is going to be different. No fight is ever going to work out the way we plan it to. Sometimes there are going to be setbacks and other times the game plan is going to work out exactly the way we want it to. We have to be able to adjust in the middle of a fight and that can be difficult.
"I compare it to the military. They go in with a game plan and if something happens where they have to change things up in order to execute the kill, then that is what they have to do. People are not going to criticize a U.S. Army soldier because in those moments it is life or death. For us as fighters, it is our reputation on the line. You can lose a fight and not have a job. We fight to keep our jobs and people don't realize the pressure which comes with that."
With his feet back in the win column, a victory over Cerrone would serve to boost him back up the ladder. Guillard said he is certain this is what he plans to accomplish but isn't quite sure of where that would put him in the bigger picture at 155 pounds.
"At this point I don't know where I stand in this division because it is stacked with so much talent," Guillard said. "The only thing I know that is important right now is to win. To me winning is everything. It makes everything better. It makes your life better and at this point I really don't know where I stand. I just know I need to win."