Matches to make after 'Fight for Troops'
Melvin Guillard versus Nik LentzTonight was big-time redemption for Guillard, whose pursuit has been defined by flashes of potential followed by tough breaks and underwhelming performances. In his first-round knockout of the favored Evan Dunham, Guillard showed impressive skills, delivering a concussive assault en route to the biggest win of his career.
Melvin's takedown defense is a splendid thing to watch, as he performs feats of uncanny agility while punishing opponents who try to plant him on the mat. His standup is also top-notch; on Saturday, the "Young Assassin" mixed in punches, knees and the kitchen sink from virtually every angle. Chalk up another career reborn through Greg Jackson's magic touch -- Guillard should now be considered a Top-15 fighter in the UFC's packed 155-pound division, and maybe even Top 10.
Lentz would be an ideal next opponent for Guillard. Lentz possesses solid wrestling and a high-pressure style, the type of fighter who would gun for Guillard from the jump. The problem with attacking Guillard is that his takedown defense makes his striking all the more problematic to deal with. As the talented Dunham learned, Guillard is a very effective sprawl-and-brawl artist.
Lentz has progressed nicely since entering the UFC, going 4-0-1, and this would be the kind of elimination match to move one guy solidly into the UFC's Top 10, which is where the ladder gets insanely tough to ascend.
Mark Hominick versus Jose AldoLong-rumored, this is a no-brainer and is virtually guaranteed after Hominick's blowout of George Roop. Featherweight champ Aldo is flirting with Georges St. Pierre-like status: he's at least a 5-1 favorite over any potential challenger at this point. Hominick's standup represents the toughest test available for the young Brazilian, however.
Given the status of the 145-pound division, Hominick is also the best available challenger. Contenders Chad Mendes and Diego Nunes still need more seasoning and exposure, and Aldo himself could use some proper build-up so fans can appreciate him as he transitions into the UFC. Hominick has never shied away from a standup fight, and who knows? Maybe he'd actually force Aldo to go for a takedown. Either way, it's a great first defense for Aldo to make in the big show.
Yves Edwards versus Danny Castillo
While Guillard showed the promise of a reborn fighter living up to his potential, Edwards showcased the kind of veteran guile and experience one loves to see as a fight fan. It reminds you that the old dog can still bite, and the American Top Team product was his characteristically unflappable self in his second-round submission of the scrappy Cody McKenzie. Edwards -- who found himself in a bit of trouble in the second before taking McKenzie's back for a fight-ending rear-naked choke -- is always tough when he has time to think, and especially when he can counter on the feet.
Edwards clearly dialed in on McKenzie's spotty standup game -- which has improved somewhat from its virtual non-existence on "The Ultimate Fighter" Season 12 -- picking spots, varying his right hands and kicks, and picking the Alaskan apart. That's why Castillo is the perfect next foe for Edwards.
Ever-aggressive, Castillo is coming off a one-round blowout of Will Kerr in WEC. He's a solid wrestler and probably would be able to take Edwards down, forcing him to defend a hostile ground-and-pound assault. Castillo isn't afraid to let his heavy hands loose on the feet, either, and is naturally bigger than Yves.
At this point, neither Edwards nor Castillo is among the elite of the crowded lightweight division. With most of the top fighters booked for the upcoming months, this is a fan-friendly matchup that would ask questions of both. Can Yves hang with the new breed and powerful wrestler types? Can Castillo solve a veteran puzzle like Edwards? If either guy wants to move up in the division, they'll have to answer "yes," and this fight is a great way to find out.
Matt Mitrione versus Patrick Barry
Both were impressive on Saturday, and since virtually every other UFC heavyweight seems to have his dance card booked, Mitrione-Barry makes sense on every level. Mitrone continued to show progress, as he displayed sharp striking and patience in dispatching of Tim Hague. Barry, meanwhile, showed off his trademark big kicks and explosive standup in a decision win against the uber-tough Joey Beltran.
At this point in their careers, Mitrione and Barry -- each an emerging commodity with upside -- will be vulnerable to overpowering wrestlers and more experienced fighters.
Mitrione-Barry would be the kind of standup gala that guarantees placement on the televised portion of the card. Both are articulate and somewhat comedic, so the trash talk would be entertaining as well. It's a can't-miss matchup that would be a test of both men's chins and hearts.
Matt Wiman versus Waylon Lowe
These two lightweights are in similar spots: both picked up solid wins on Saturday night, and both are likely one win away from cracking the Top 20 in the UFC 155-pound division. That's no small feat, since there are approximately 60 lightweights currently on the roster.
Wiman never looked better than he did in his dominating decision win over Cole Miller. "Handsome Matt" used wrestling and ground-and-pound to keep the tricky Miller constantly on the defensive. Lowe is an exceptionally good wrestler and would test Wiman in that regard.
Lowe has rebounded from a tough UFC debut, in which he was knocked out by Guillard with a brutal knee to the body. Since then, he's put together a pair of decision wins, including his win against former Shooto champion Willamy "Chiquerim" Freire on Saturday's undercard.
Wiman's wrestling has improved considerably; Lowe's power and takedown prowess would answer whether or not the rest of Wiman's game has improved as much.
Jason Probst is a contributor to Sherdog.com.