On a night when Mark Hominick punched his way to a title shot, Melvin Guillard made sure he wasn't overlooked by putting on a scintillating performance against Evan Dunham on Saturday at UFC Fight for the Troops 2 at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas.
Hominick needed to defeat George Roop on the nationally televised Ultimate Fighting Championship card Saturday in order to earn a shot at the featherweight title, currently held by Jose Aldo, at UFC 129 in April.
Hominick came through with a dominant performance, pummeling George Roop and stopping him at 1:28 of the first round.
But two fights later, Guillard edged himself into lightweight title contention with arguably the best performance of his career, a first-round stoppage of the highly regarded Dunham.
Guillard knocked Dunham down with a big right hand behind a jab, then finished him with a series of knees while Dunham was helpless against the cage. Referee Mario Yamasaki jumped in to halt the carnage at 2:58 of the first.
After the bout, Guillard demanded a shot at the lightweight championship. Judging by the way he looked against Dunham, who entered the bout with an 11-1 record and a lot of momentum, it's not unreasonable for UFC president Dana White and matchmaker Joe Silva to start considering him in the mix.
Guillard, 27-8-2, has long been one of the UFC's more physically gifted fighters, but he often wasn't focused or properly prepared. He got into trouble outside of the cage and was an example of wasted talent.
But ever since hooking up with Greg Jackson's camp last year, Guillard has been a different fighter, which he proved Saturday against Dunham.
"Coach Jackson has helped me so much, but it's mostly been the mental game," Guillard told Yahoo! Sports after the fight. "Coach Greg and Coach Wink [Mike Winkeljohn] realize that I always had the talent, but they've helped me to channel that talent and to put it to use in the cage. I have to conduct myself as a respectable man away from the cage and commit myself to being the best every day. It's working."
Guillard said he wanted to make a statement and he clearly did. Dunham was coming off a highly controversial loss to former champion Sean Sherk at UFC 119, and White said he still considered Dunham undefeated.
But he was no match for the quick and explosive Guillard, who showed tremendous balance while stuffing Dunham's takedown attempts.
Guillard wants a championship shot, but champion Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard are going to rematch for the belt at UFC 129. The winner is supposed to fight Anthony "Showtime" Pettis if Pettis defeats Clay Guida.
Guillard, though, seems to have fought his way into the mix, though the division is deep with contenders.
"I want a title shot, but I'm not going to sit around and wait," he said. "I've never been like that. Whoever they put in front of me, I'll fight. I'm trying to get on the Super Bowl card [at UFC 126 on Feb. 5]. I think I'm the best lightweight in the world, but I ain't going to sit around to prove it. I want to keep fighting. Whoever the best they can find is who I want to fight."
Hominick's impressive victory gives him the shot at Aldo, a prize some regard as a booby prize. Aldo is ranked third in the Yahoo! Sports pound-for-pound rankings and is widely regarded as one of the most devastating fighters in the world.
Hominick said he believes Aldo is No. 1, but he believes his striking will be the difference.
"I really believe he's the best, but he's never faced a standup fighter like myself," Hominick said after improving to 20-8 with his fifth consecutive win. "I'm a stronger striker than he is and I have the titles to prove that. He hasn't faced an opponent who can pressure him on his feet like I'll be able to do."
Certainly, Roop was no match. Hominick's punching was fast and precise and he landed left hooks almost at will. The two had trained together previously and Hominick knew Roop's tendencies.
He allowed Roop to circle to the left and took advantage by continually landing left hands.
"George has a long body and I wanted to hit him to the body so he'd lift his chin," Hominick said. "After I hit him in the body, I was able to come over the top."
Heavyweight Matt Mitrione was impressive in his fight against Tim Hague, scoring a first-round knockout at 2:59 to win his fourth in a row. It should also vault him up the ladder and into a higher level of competition.
Mitrione, a teammate of Super Bowl XLIV MVP Drew Brees at Purdue, injured his left hand when he connected on top of Hague's head early in the fight. Yet, he still decked Hague with the same left hand later in the round before going in for the finish.
"The first left I landed, he still had his wits about him," Mitrione said. "The second one, the lights were on but no one was home. I knew I needed to get down there and finish him off. My job is to keep punching and attacking until they go to sleep."
Mitrione said he hopes that UFC officials put him in with a better level of opponent the next time out in order to challenge him and aid his development. He's clearly got a long way to go, but he's a talented guy and is making tremendous strides.
He incorporated more movement into his game, he said, after watching UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz.
"I'm probably the most athletic heavyweight around," said Mitrione, who played briefly in the NFL for the New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings. "I haven't been fully utilizing my talents. I have the ability to move and I thought I might as well take advantage of it."