MMA Odds and Ends for Thursday: Ross Pearson Out, Michael Johnson Now Faces Melvin Guillard

Melvin Guillard Michael Johnson has been trying to get a fight booked with seemingly every name fighter in the UFC lightweight division, and now, after an injury to a divisional rival, he’s been given the chance to step up on short notice. The UFC today announced that Ross Pearson is injured and now Johnson will replace him against Melvin Guillard in a three-round lightweight bout at UFC Fight Night 37, which takes place March 8 at O2 Arena in London, England. This is a huge fight in Johnson’s career, and if he can defeat Guillard in impressive fashion I expect the UFC to give him a very big push up the lightweight ladder. But this isn’t an easy stylistic matchup for him at all. Although Johnson has shown tremendous improvement in his last two fights, victories over Joe Lauzon and Gleison Tibau, those improvements came mostly in his standup skills, not in his wrestling skills. Although Guillard is arguably on a bit of a decline in his career, he still has tremendous hands and knockout power to go along with solid wrestling fundamentals. So if Johnson’s gameplan is to stand and bang with Guillard, he’ll certainly have a chance to win the fight either on points or by knockout, but if Guillard smartly reverts to his wrestling chops and tries to take Johnson to the ground, “The Menace” is going to be in big trouble because, as we saw in his losses to Myles Jury and Reza Madadi, Johnson’s ground game just isn’t up to par. Although Johnson was calling out the highly-touted Khabib Nurmagomedov for a fight, UFC matchmaker Joe Silva obviously doesn’t believe that Johnson is ready for that high caliber of a wrestler like “The Eagle” is, and instead wants to test Johnson out against a striker with very good wrestling like Guillard. So I think the matchup makes a lot of sense, because if Johnson can take out Guillard in devastating fashion we’ll know that he’s ready for a step up against a top-10 foe. And as for Guillard, a win over the surging Johnson would be absolutely huge for him as he tries to prove to the UFC and to the fans that he still has something left in the tank and that he can still be somewhat of a dark horse contender in the UFC lightweight division. As far as the betting line goes, it won’t come out until March but my initial lean is that Johnson will be favored slightly here due to all the hype behind him at the moment. Having said that, though, I really think this is a bad style matchup for him and if Guillard for whatever reason is available as a decent-sized underdog here then I’ll likely have to take a stab at him. Again, these are my initial thoughts and they may change, but this does look like a decent matchup stylistically for Guillard on paper.

Written by Adam Martin.

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