Former Bellator Fighting Championships Middleweight champion Hector Lombard will look to registers his first-ever Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) victory when he faces professional leg dissector Rousimar Palhares at UFC on FX 6 this Friday (Dec. 14, 2012) at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Center in Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia.
"Lightning," who was the most hyped free agent acquisition of 2012 for the world's leading mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion, entered the UFC not with a bang, but a whimper. After knocking out fighters around the world, the Olympic Judoka fought eternal under dog Tim Boetsch in a snoozer, losing a split decision at UFC 149.
This Friday, Lombard will look to get his career back on track by snuffing out "Toquinho," a squat Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist who has an affinity -- and ability -- to twist human legs with excruciating efficiency.
Can the Cuban avoid playing footsie with Palhares and prove his hype once and for all with another violent knockout?
Let's find out:
Despite having an excellent grappling background, Lombard's striking is what has made him famous in MMA circles. He throws all his power behind every punch, finishing 17 opponents via (technical) knockout.
Lombard mostly throws potent hooks, happy to engage in a brawl. He also utilizes a straight left hook and thundering over hand. When his opponent covers up to hide from these punches, Lombard will blitz with uppercuts.
He throws them all with vicious intent, capable of ending the fight at any time:
By far, Lombard's most effective punch is his crushing left hook. It is Lombard's go-to move, and he uses it effectively when moving forward and as a counter. "Lightning" generates a ton of power from his hips, unleashing it more often than not with this punch.
Lombard's striking, however, has some serious holes, offensively and defensively. Offensively, he rarely throws kicks or diverts from his hooks. He is very predictable, which is never a good thing. Boestch capitalized on Lombard's lack of kicks and tiny reach, using leg kicks to win a decision.
"Shango" also keeps his hands low, so he can increase the power behind his left hook. This leaves him open to counters, and he often backs straight up instead of circling out. This leaves him open to long combinations, although his power has sufficiently deterred them so far.
Lombard competed in Judo at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, earning a fourth dan black belt in Judo. Oddly enough, a majority of his takedowns are wrestling-style takedowns, but he has demonstrated his Judo skills more than once.
He is very aggressive with his clinch takedowns. Once he secures at least one under hook, he will wrench his opponent through the air or drag them down to the mat. Lombard's Judo is also very prominent in his takedown defense -- his hips are very strong, a common trait among skilled Judokas.
When Lombard decides to shoot for a takedown, he almost exclusively goes for double legs. After getting in deep on a double, "Lightning" will cut a corner and drag his opponent to the mat. Lombard hit this takedown on Alexander Schlemenko multiple times in their title fight, and slammed Boestch with a double leg in his last fight.
Once Lombard gets his opponent to the mat, he likes to stay in the guard and attack with short punches and elbows. From this position, his short reach is actually an advantage, letting him generate more power without posturing up and risking control.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)
Lombard has earned a black belt in jiu-jitsu under Marcus Silviera and currently trains at American Top Team, a camp well known for its ground specialists. In the last five years, Lombard has so rarely been on his back that it's almost impossible to get an understanding of his jiu-jitsu game.
There is one exception.
When Lombard fought Taylor, he slipped early and "JT Money" capitalized with a takedown. Within just a few seconds, Lombard switched into a butterfly guard, elevated and swept Taylor into side control. A few minutes later, Lombard latched onto Taylor's ankle in a heel hook and finished the fight.
Lombard's top game has looked solid so far, but he hasn't taken down any top notch jiu-jitsu specialists, preferring to knock them out. From what I've seen of his top game, he doesn't keep his elbows in tight enough, which leaves him vulnerable to arm bars and triangles.
If he is ever forced to take down a submission specialist, this could get him in trouble.
Thanks to his Judo background, Lombard has been able to control where almost all of his fights have taken place thus far. If he wants to be on top, he can, or he can keep it standing. His power also contributes a great deal to this, because it stops opponents from opening up with their striking, which helps mask takedown attempts. "Lightning's" ability to control where the fight takes place is one of the biggest reasons he went undefeated for over five years.
The reason Lombard lost to Boestch was because "The Barbarian" was the first opponent to dictate the pace of the fight. Lombard could take down Boetsch, but couldn't hold him there long enough to land anything significant, and he would quickly get back to his feet. On the feet, Boetsch refused to engage with Lombard, and he simply didn't know how to react.
Best chance for success
Lombard needs to keep this fight standing at all costs. He absolutely cannot afford to screw around on the ground with Palhares, who has submitted much more proven black belts Lombard. As dangerous as Lombard is on the feet, Palhares is just as violent on the mat.
While standing, Lombard needs to constantly pressure Palhares. He can't get too aggressive and risk takedowns, but constant pressure will make Palhares attack with punches. Palhares' striking defense isn't extraordinary, and Lombard could likely land his nasty left hook counter if he can get "Toquinho" to engage.
If Palhares won't attack first, Lombard should back him into the fence, and then rip into him with hooks and plenty of uppercuts. Lombard's uppercuts should be key here because Palhares will undoubtedly look to take it to the ground.
Will Lombard get his first UFC victory, or will Palhares prove he was all hype?