It may come as a shock that Shane Roller doesn't want to stand and trade with
Melvin Guillard– if you've been watching MMA for all of two weeks.
But if you haven't, you know as well as Roller (10-3 MMA, 1-0 UFC) how dangerous Guillard (27-8-2 MMA, 9-3 UFC) is on his feet, and how strategically unsound it would be to hang out there.
Even with a picture-perfect knockout on his recent resume, Roller isn't taking any chances when he fights Guillard in a Spike TV-televised preliminary-card bout at UFC 132, which takes place Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Ah, but how to take "The Young Assassin" down? He's either fast on his feet or pops up like a jack-in-the-box when you take him to the mat. He's taken residence with MMA guru Greg Jackson and doesn't overcommit to his strikes like he used to. He gets in, and he gets out.
And in the meantime, you get a headache.
Roller, however, is one of the most decorated amateur wrestlers that Guillard has yet faced, a three-time All-American at Oklahoma State University. True, there's a difference between the mats of college and the cage of wrestling, but his entire career has been built from taking people down. In MMA, he's often submitted those he managed to wrestle.
Not so long ago, that was Guillard's glaring Achilles' heel.
"As long as I set up my takedowns good, I don't think I'll have a problem getting him to the ground," he recently told MMAjunkie.com Radio (www.mmajunkie.com/radio). "He's explosive. He's great with his strikes, and I think he does a really good job of getting up when you take him down.
"You've got to get position and just control and methodically move to better positions when you're on top, or he'll explode up and get out."
Just finding someone as remotely fast as Guillard has been a headache in and of itself, and Roller admits he's been unsuccessful. His sparring partners can dance around and perhaps throw combinations that Guillard likes to throw, but there's only so much they can do.
"You can replicate the movement pretty good, you just can't replicate his quickness," Roller said. "He's very quick, and it's hard to find people with that quickness. It's something you've either got or you don't.
"But I have great training partners that replicate his movement and how he strikes and comes in, and all of that. I'm very confident I'm ready to go."
A win for Roller would completely steal the thunder that Guillard has worked so hard to gather following the turbulent days of his early career, when he won most but lost when it counted. Guillard believes that he's right in line – and perhaps maybe next – to meet the winner of a future rematch between lightweight champ Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard. A fight like Saturday's is dangerous for those goals, especially if he spends the fight on his back.
But that's no easy task for Roller, who has never faced someone as experienced and lethal as Guillard.
With opportunity around the door, it wouldn't be unheard of for a fighter to play more conservatively, or put an opponent on his back. Many have done it before, and many will do it again. But Roller sees the fight pretty cut and dry.
"I'd be very surprised if he wanted to take me down," he said. "I think he's going to want to keep the fight standing for as long as he can. But I'm definitely going to be getting it to the mat at some point."
There will be other times to show off his hands.