Jamie Varner vs. Melvin Guillard could end up a fight of the year candidate.
The TUF 16 finale card is probably the best FX or Fuel TV card we've had all year. Five fights, several fan favorites and lots of bouts that, on paper, are sure to excite.
I loved having this assignment. Really, there are plenty of options.
I could have gone with Johnny Bedford vs. Marcos Vinicius. That fight has two guys that have a combined 38 wins, only four of them coming by decision. Both scored knockout victories in their UFC debuts, and in the bantamweight division, you know it's going to be fast-paced.
I could have gone with the TUF 16 finals between Mike Ricci and Colton Smith. Ricci is generally regarded as the favorite and, as a product of TriStar, is going to come into the fight incredibly well-trained and well-coached. Seeing how he handles a strong wrestler in Colton Smith, and if he can become the next big welterweight from the Montreal gym, should be quite enjoyable.
What's your most-anticipated fight?
I could have picked Nick Catone vs. TJ Waldburger. Those are two little-known, but incredibly skilled welterweights. Catone arguably beat Mark Munoz and absolutely wrecked Costa Philippou at middleweight, and could quickly make a big impact at 170 lbs. Waldburger, meanwhile, is 3-2 in the UFC, but actually beat Strikeforce's Pat Healy in 2009 and has a very strong submission game.
All great fights, but as you probably noticed from that image up there, I opted for Melvin Guillard vs. Jamie Varner. Why, you ask?
Well, we already know that Melvin Guillard is a great striker. He owns a load of knockout victories over his many years fighting in the UFC, many of which are sure to find their way to the screen during the coverage of the event.
We also already know (but many have forgotten) that Jamie Varner is no stranger to striking. While he's been trying very hard over the last few years to be a wrestler, Varner is a very solid pure boxer. Since returning to Zuffa after being cut from the WEC, he is 1-1, with his win coming via TKO over the much-hyped spin-kicker Edson Barboza, and his loss coming after a strong effort against Joe Lauzon.
Both fighters have very strong chins. Guillard's latest fight against Donald Cerrone is his lone knockout loss in an 11-year career. Jamie Varner has never been knocked out, in spite of fighting against some very strong strikers such as Barboza, Cerrone (twice), Ben Henderson and Marcus Hicks.
While Varner has wrestling chops, and grappling has always been a huge weakness in Guillard's game, as somebody training with a team with as many strong grapplers as the Blackzilians, I'd wager that he is going to be very capable of keeping the fight standing. Varner may or may not come into the fight planning to strike, but his wrestling game is probably not good enough for him to realistically expect to lay-and-pray Guillard.
Even if Varner demonstrates better wrestling than I'm giving him credit for, the way he has been fighting and the manner in which he is tackling his career right now is not just to win. Varner is fighting to excite, and if things go to the ground, expect him to look for the finish.
Long story short, these are two fighters with exciting styles that are both going to be looking for finishes. I see very few ways this bout could pan out poorly, and so many ways it could end up being just as good as, if not better than, Varner's fight with Lauzon.
Be excited, folks!