Sunday, 6 September 2009

UFC Fight Night Breakdown: Diaz vs Guillard

Some guys enter mixed martial arts because they are elite athletes who thirst for competition
after they finish high school or college sports. Others enter the sport because they are lifelong martial artists who want to continue their personal journey.A select few enter the sport because they are alpha males in the truest sense of the word. Fighting is part of their DNA. Nate Diaz and Melvin Guillard fall into that last category. The UFC is more than an athletic endeavor to them. It is how they express themselves as men. Actually, it is probably how they define themselves as men. That is why they fight with such amazing passion and, at times, venom.In other words, the main event of UFC Fight Night on September 16th at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City is going to be one heck of a scrap.Expect both men to come out looking to kickbox because that how each prefers to fight, regardless of the opponent. Diaz fights on the feet with a style that is indiscernible from his brother, Nick. He likes to slap with his right jab. He probably claims that they are lead right hooks, but one cannot throw a true right hook without turning his hips. Instead, it is a slapping jab.The right doesn’t typically cause much damage. Yet, it is very effective because Diaz impairs his opponent’s vision and consumes his attention with the strike. If an opponent disregards the slapping right, Diaz will turn it over and incorporate his body, thus generating good power. Most of the time, however, the right is used to create openings for Diaz’s straight left hand, and he throws that punch as well as anyone in the division. He doesn’t have true knockout power in either hand, instead firing with stunning force and chipping away at an opponent’s chin over time. As a result, Diaz will look to throw punches in bunches in an attempt to wear down Guillard. The major risk with that strategy is that Guillard is far more explosive on the feet than Diaz, so he risks ending the fight on the wrong end of a knockout.Diaz has a tremendous chin, but Guillard strikes with fearsome speed and excellent technique, which generates legitimate one-punch knockout power. So, Diaz wants to avoid relying on his chin in this fight.In fact, Diaz shouldn’t be messing around with Guillard on the feet any longer than is absolutely necessary to get the fight to the ground. Guillard’s submission defense is his Achilles’ heel, and the Cesar Gracie trained Diaz is one of the slicker submission artists in the division, particularly from his guard.Diaz would be well served to use his slapping right to close the distance and force Guillard to the cage so that he can initiate a clinch. From there, he can drop for a double-leg or high-crotch takedown, or he can even pull guard. Whatever it takes to get the fight to the ground, that is what Diaz should do.On the ground, Diaz will overwhelm Guillard with his technique. From the top, he will work his ground and pound until Guillard gives up his back in defense. Diaz will quickly capitalize on that moment by taking his back, sinking his hooks in and methodically working for a rear naked choke that will bring the fight to a quick conclusion.If Diaz ends up pulling guard, he will continually work his hips high on Guillard’s back while waiting for the New Orleans native to over commit with a punch so that he can throw his leg over for an arm bar or, more likely, slap on a triangle choke. If Diaz is able to lock in either, the fight is over. Guillard’s game plan is a simple one: sprawl and brawl. He knows that he is the more dangerous kickboxer. The orthodox kickboxer will look to win the battle of foot position, constantly stepping to his left so that he can get his lead left foot outside of Diaz’s lead right foot, which creates the optimal throwing lane for his huge right hand. Guillard’s left hook is actually a bit more dangerous than his right hand, but the left hook isn’t traditionally an effective punch against southpaws, unless it is thrown during exchanges. Guillard will look to fire that weapon when Diaz steps in for, or retreats from, a clinch.‘The Young Assassin’ will also look for opportunities to work over Diaz’s lean torso. Diaz is a very tall, thin lightweight, so there is a lot of surface area from his hips to his shoulders for body punchers to target. Guillard will risk stepping into a knee strike or a clinch, which are two of the better counters to body punching in MMA, in order to punish the body. Anyone doubting the effectiveness of his body attacks should review his win over Gabe Ruediger at UFC 63. That was one of the best body shots in recent Octagon history.Guillard needs to be aware of defending the takedown in this fight, but he shouldn’t be obsessed with it. Diaz’s biggest weakness, in my opinion, is his lack of a dominant wrestling base. His amazing ground skills would be far more effective if he could take a fight to the ground at will. He cannot do that against guys with even average takedown defense.Nevertheless, Guillard cannot be dismissive of the takedown, because he knows that he will face a massive disadvantage if the fight hits the ground. As he showed in his 2007 first round submission losses to Rich Clementi and Joe Stevenson, he does not have an answer for top submission guys. Accordingly, if Diaz pulls guard, Guillard needs to pull out and wave his opponent back to his feet. If Diaz is successful scoring a takedown, Guillard needs to keep his guard closed and hold on for a standup. If he is unable to stalemate Diaz, then he should look for opportunities to sweep or scramble. He should not, under any circumstances, give up his back to avoid ground-and-pound punishment. Guillard giving up his back to Diaz is as conclusive as a man sticking his head into the mouth of a hungry African lion.How do I see this one playing out? Diaz has far more weapons in his arsenal. Then again, so did Frank Mir against Brock Lesnar. Did I just compare Melvin Guillard to Brock Lesnar? That requires a restart.Diaz has is the more versatile fighter, and thus has more ways to win the fight. Then again, so did ‘Minotauro’ Nogueira against Frank
Mir.We all know how that fight turned out.I like Guillard in this one for several reasons. First, Diaz’s love of a barnyard brawl will lead to him standing unnecessarily with a dangerous striker like Guillard. Second, if Diaz gets himself in trouble, I think that his lack of takedowns will pose a major problem—I think pulling guard may be his best option for getting the fight to the ground. Third, when Diaz gets hurt with a punch, his instinct is to plant his feet and fire back. That is the absolute wrong thing to do against a homerun hitter like Guillard. Diaz should win based on the matchup, but I think Guillard will hand the former TUF winner his third consecutive loss. Call it a hunch.Diaz Quick Facts:• 24 years old• 10-4 overall record• 5-2 in the UFC• 4 of his 5 wins have come by way of submission• 5 straight wins to start his UFC career• 3 consecutive fights have gone to the judges’ cards, including back-to-back split decisions prior to the Stevenson fight• Coming off 2 consecutive losses• Hermes Franca is the only man to stop Diaz inside the distance – arm bar victory at 2:46 of the second round of their WEC fight right before Diaz filmed TUFGuillard Quick Facts:• 26 years old• 41-8-3 (1 NC) record• 5-4 in the UFC• 4 of his 5 wins have come by KO / TKO • On three fight winning streak, two in the UFC• Has never won more than two fights in a row in the UFC

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