Guillard stuck behind lightweight crowd

With several big knees and an incalculable difference in footspeed, Melvin Guillard tore through Evan Dunham on Saturday night at UFC’s Fight for the Troops 2, officially inserting himself into the UFC lightweight title conversation.

Right now, however, that talk will have to remain on hold as the champion, Frankie Edgar, is looking at another matchup with challenger Gray Maynard after their New Year’s Day main event draw at UFC 125.

Guillard, 27, is riding a four-fight win streak and he’s been victorious in seven of his last eight fights. Most impressive for Guillard is that he’s a more disciplined version of the naturally dangerous and explosive athlete he’s always been since moving to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to train with world-renowned trainer Greg Jackson. The new and improved Guillard walks into the cage with a mission now, and doesn’t just fight on emotion alone, something that has cost him fights in the past.

After earning his second career "Knockout of the Night" award from the UFC (the first was against Dennis Siver at UFC 86), Guillard’s overall record is now 27-8-2 with one no contest. While the check from Saturday night’s fight will feel well earned, it will do little to clear up the title situation that lies in front of him in UFC’s lightweight division.

With Edgar and Maynard clashing again in an immediate rematch at UFC 130, and with the winner of the Anthony Pettis-Clay Guida fight likely being next in line for the title shot, Guillard could go on to face the man he replaced in Saturday’s main event, Kenny Florian. That fight would be contested around the time of UFC 130 or 131 and, barring major suspensions or injuries, could line up the winner for a title shot at the Edgar-Maynard winner, or against the Pettis-Guida victor for the No. 1 contender’s slot.

Either way, Guillard’s a long way from the title shot he covets. With other contenders (Jim Miller, George Sotiropoulos) or new talent coming into the division from WEC (Ben Henderson, Donald Cerrone) standing in his path, the "Young Assassin" will have to win out in at least two more fights before his title shot could be realized.

That’s unfortunate.

The performance Guillard turned in Saturday proves he’s an elite-level athlete. His speed can only be compared with fighters in the smaller weight classes. He’s got freakishly fast hands and feet and the kind of killer instinct you cannot teach someone. He’s known as the "Young Assassin" for a reason.

Guillard’s earned the opportunity to prove he belongs in the top-five lightweight fighters in the company, if not the world. Could he beat Eddie Alvarez or Gilbert Melendez? Sure. With the right gameplan, something he sorely lacked in previous camps before joining up with Greg Jackson, Guillard seems like a world-beater. He has the talent, and now we’re just starting to see him develop the brains to match.

Hopefully, he won’t have to wait much longer to see how he stacks up against the division’s top contenders.