Mike Winkeljohn (center) | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

Mike Winkeljohn is a believer in Melvin Guillard.

The striking coach at Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts has watched his fighter’s progression since joining the camp, and now he thinks Guillard is on the verge of delivering a key victory over Evan Dunham on Saturday at UFC “Fight for the Troops 2.”

“I’m a big Melvin fan,” Winkeljohn said recently during a “Savage Dog Show” interview on the Sherdog Radio Network. “He’s matured quite a bit over the last year as far as relaxing at the right moments, not panicking and using his natural … God-given abilities. He’s a hell of an athlete. He can knock out anybody at any time he decides to. I definitely think Melvin’s going to catch this kid and knock him out.”

Winkeljohn has been working alongside Greg Jackson since the 1990s. While Jackson is the better known trainer, he often credits Winkeljohn for the team’s success, particularly with striking.

In fact, Winkeljohn helped devise the stick-and-move strategy that Guillard used against Jeremy Stephens at UFC 119. The game plan led Guillard to victory, but not everyone enjoyed his shift from an aggressive, often reckless fighter to one who stuck to a strategy.

“We had to get that in Melvin,” Winkeljohn explained. “Let him understand you don’t just throw and you either hit the guy [and] win or you get caught with something stupid. I wanted him to understand that he can be smarter than these guys, out-game-plan them, out-move them with strategy and then at the right time, go back and use the power that he has to put people out cold.”

The Jackson/Winkeljohn way: “There’s a reason why we’re so successful. Greg gets out there, and he makes contacts with other fighters. He brings fighters into our gym, which makes our gym now much stronger. I try to stay in the gym and help the guys that we have and the guys that are there and the guys that come in. It seems to work out real well. We make a good team.”

Competing against an opponent’s coaches: “I have to look at what our opponent has been working on in his recent fights, what camp he’s gone to … because I know he’s been working on changing his game a little bit. … Usually I can kind of get an idea what their coach is doing and where they’re going, so it’s kind of like a chess match. We just want to try to be one step ahead of everybody.”

The freak training injury in which his eye was scraped by a toenail while he was holding pads: “It cut my eyeball in half. My eyeball kind of shrank up like a grape. My cornea was trashed. My lens shot out. All the fluid shot out of my eye. I’ve had four operations. … I wear goggles now when I hold mitts for people. It’s been very humbling. I have a good eye and I can’t cry about it. I just have to go forward.”

The real Clay Guida:Clay Guida’s probably the nicest guy. They’re all nice, but I’ll tell you a quick story. Clay gets out of the cage, and he’s [won] and everybody wants his autograph and girls are yelling at him. He stops and looks at me because I’m carrying all of his stuff, all the corner stuff and some of his clothes. He stops and he runs over and he goes, ‘Coach, let me grab that for you.’ He’s just that guy. That’s just Clay.”

Jon Jones’ work ethic: “I think he’s working harder than ever before. He’s realizing that to be successful at the high level, now it’s time to really start working.”

Jones’ study habits: “He’s the kind of guy that’s a student of the game. He will sit down and watch film on his own. He just studies. He just studies and sees what people do and then he goes out and tries it.”

Guillard’s intelligence: “He’s a lot smarter than people think. Kind of like Jon [Jones], he’s becoming even more of a student of the game. He’s starting to understand some basic theory on what we want done.”

Listen to the full interview (beginning at 1:03:10) with Winkeljohn, who also discussed Jones’ strategy against Ryan Bader.

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