Melvin Guillard ready for Clementi

Melvin Guillard is widely recognized by fans as one of the top athletes participating in mixed martial arts today. He is known for his explosiveness, agility and strength, but he was first “discovered” by the casual MMA fan during his appearance on “The Ultimate Fighter” reality show.

Guillard will step back into the octagon on Dec. 29 after an extended layoff between fights due to a drug-related suspension in Nevada.

Feeling the holiday spirit, he said of his next fight, “I feel like a kid at Christmas right now, I’m anxious to open my presents.

“That’s the feeling I have right now after being out for so long. I’m really looking forward to putting on a good show and making a good comeback.”

But Guillard is not just happy to be getting back into the cage; he is ecstatic at who will be across from him when the Octagon gate closes. The man across from him that night will be none other than Rich ‘No Love’ Clementi, one of Melvin’s favorite people in the fight game...

“Perfect Christmas gift,” he said. “It couldn’t have been any better.”

Guillard and Clementi certainly have no love lost between them. There has been well-publicized bad blood between these two men for some time, but up until now they have had to settle their differences outside of the cage.

This time though, they get to settle their differences live in front of a number of friends, family and the 15,000 fans in attendance.

When Guillard joined MMAWeekly’s SoundOff Radio recently to discuss his upcoming fight, he was candid about his feelings and noticeably pumped for their upcoming battle.

“It makes it that much easier for the fight, you know what I mean? (Not liking Rich) is motivation in itself. I don’t have to create anger; I don’t have to create a dislike for the person. This is not a staged act, either. This is me, I hate the guy. It’s going to make this fight a whole lot easier for me to go in and hurt this guy.”

Guillard is coming into this match up having taken all of the steps that would suggest that he actually might have made significant improvement to his already solid game. He has trained with great coaches like Saul Soliz for some time now, but never full-time. Up until his most recent training camp, he would commute from his hometown of New Orleans, La., and head west to train with Soliz for an impending fight.

Using his layoff from the cage, Guillard made the move out west so that he could surround himself with excellent coaches and a number of other talented fighters so he could make improvements to his game 365 days a year rather than just during scheduled training camps.

Of his transition, he said, “I’m not only training three months out like I used to, I’m training year round. The layoff just gave me more time to add to my game and work on my weaknesses.”

As fighters go, there seems to be two different types in MMA. The first type is the fighter who fights for one or two big paychecks a year and then uses the remainder of his or her time to pursue obligations away from the cage. The second type is the type of person who constantly wants to be in the fire competing, learning and gaining experience.

Anyone who has seen him fight knows instantly into which group Guillard falls. He made his entrance to the sport as someone who would fight anyone, anywhere, regardless of whether there was even a ring present or not.

In the past couple of years, he has certainly grown professionally, but he still longs to get back to his original style of fighting. One thing that Guillard knows for sure is that he wants to be considerably more active than he has been of late.

“That’s the way I came up fighting … every two or three months. Sometimes I used to fight like one weekend and then go fight somewhere else, but since I’ve been in the UFC, it kind of slowed my pace down a little bit of how I used to fight, but I actually want to get back doing that again.”

Before Guillard worries about becoming more active though, he needs to first worry about his opponent at UFC 79. Clementi is an experienced fighter who is not likely to lie down for anyone in the cage, especially not someone with the confrontational history that he and Guillard have.

So what can fans expect to see when these two rivals step into the cage next weekend?

“He is going to be in for a long night,” Guillard said. “I’m not going to predict that I will knock him out or submit him, because you never know with me, but I will predict that I am going to get my hand raised in the end.

“There is no doubt in my mind that I’m going to run through this guy.”