Melvin Guillard was set to have one of his toughest tests outside of the UFC only a few fights removed from the promotion. After a loss to Brandon Girtz that dropped his record to 1-2 in his post-UFC career, Guillard is facing the dilemma of possibly falling out of MMA relevancy.
Patricky Freire appeared to be poised to face Guillard after the latter’s opponent, Mike Bronzoulis, pulled out of their scheduled Bellator 149 fight. Freire has been looking for a fight with Guillard for almost a year now, seemingly begging to face the veteran power puncher. This was a golden opportunity for Bellator to bring Guillard back into the MMA consciousness with a fight against the Brazilian lightweight. However, according to Freire, Guillard nixed the fight.
Regardless of whether Guillard’s ducking the fight or he just didn’t want to face a fighter as tough as Freire on short notice, a fight between the two would have been the right move to make. Instead, Guillard is now set to face Derek Campos, which, while it isn’t a terrible move, it isn’t what a fight with Freire would have offered to fans and to the Bellator promotion.
Guillard’s recent fights don’t really scream of top talent, even in a mid-major promotion like Bellator. His World Series of Fighting contest against Justin Gaethje is the lone exception of those three fights, but his only win came over Gesias “JZ” Cavalcante, who hasn’t fought in almost two years and has been a wildly inconsistent fighter dating back to his days in Strikeforce. In Guillard’s last fight, he suffered a loss to Brandon Girtz, a fighter that Guillard was widely expected to beat in his Bellator debut to set himself up as a challenger in the lightweight division with the likes of fellow recent Bellator signee Josh Thomson.
Guillard is no longer the same fighter who knocked out Waylon Lowe, Evan Dunham and Shane Roller during a five-fight winning streak spanning 2010 and 2011. Instead, he has been inconsistent while going from fighting the top men in the lightweight division to maybe getting one big name every few cage entrances. This is a big concern. Guillard was considered undisciplined during his tenure in the WSOF. He missed weight for both of his WSOF outings.
Guillard has clamored to be treated as a top lightweight, going as far as to say he is an A-league fighter fighting in the B-leagues. Well, a fight with Freire is where Guillard would have really pulled through on this claim. If a fighter is going to make such a lofty claim, why not take the best fight available? It would only make sense.
Freire is one of the best lightweights in Bellator. Guillard didn’t look great against Girtz, though, and a loss here against Campos could be catastrophic for the UFC veteran’s career. It would be another loss against somebody the old Guillard could have beaten. With a loss, his chances against the best fighters in the division and potentially his spot on the Bellator roster could be gone. Campos has become Bellator’s lightweight gatekeeper. The best fighters in the division fight him to prove they’re worthy of the top spots. The fighters who fail to win against Campos get sent to the back of the line or, possibly, out of the promotion.
It could be hard for Guillard, 32, to keep himself relevant without big-name fights. He hasn’t been on a winning streak since the five straight victories he had in 2010-11 and has struggled to really get victories in general — he has only achieved three wins in his last 11 fights.
What he faces here is a tough fall from his career high. An upset victory over Freire could have given Guillard another high. The short-notice fight could have played into his favor more than a long camp. Instead, he’s content to play the waiting game. His big chance, and a potential match-up with Freire, could hit its expiration date if Guillard fails to beat Campos.