Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) President Dana White recently told media members he believed that Fedor Emelianenko, prior to his dismal run under the Strikeforce banner, was "one punch away from being worth zero."
Perhaps the same can be said for UFC newcomer Hector Lombard.
Like Emelianenko before him, Lombard spent the prime of his career toiling away on the International circuit, prior to settling in with the cast and crew of Bellator, where he quickly rose to power in the promotion's anemic 185-pound division.
On paper, his record reads like a work of fiction. Lombard's only two losses have come by unanimous decision to Gegard Mousasi and Akihiro Gono in fights that took place nearly six years ago. He has 24 finishes, including 17 (T)KO stoppages in 31 wins. Even his former employer, Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney, predicts a championship run inside the Octagon.
For that reason, Lombard's first opponent should be ...
This is usually where I rattle off a convenient list of eligible opponents, but I think what's important here is style, rather than name, because there's something I need to see from this latest import that I haven't seen yet.
Sure, the Cuban-born Australian has butted heads with a few mat technicians over the years and has a strong background in Judo, but there is nothing he's faced in the last decade that can compare to the shark-infested waters that is the UFC middleweight division.
And nothing can prepare you for the relentless pace and savage wrestling attack from the likes of Mark Munoz, Chris Weidman and Chael Sonnen. If Anderson Silva is the mighty Thor, then these are the Warriors Three.
I understand that as a promoter, you want to get the most bang for your buck.
This is why Quinton Jackson was fighting Marvin Eastman when "Rampage" debuted inside the Octagon back in early 2007. It's the same reason Mirko Filipovic drew Eddie Sanchez for his first outing. Because when you spend a pretty penny on guys like Brock Lesnar and Mauricio Rua -- only to see them tapped out by established fighters like Frank Mir and Forrest Griffin -- you've essentially devalued your hot new commodity.
But the door swings both ways.
Mir and Griffin -- just one fight removed from horrific knockouts -- used those upset wins to springboard themselves back into contendership and ultimately, title fights. And despite their respective losses, both Lesnar and Rua also went on to win gold.
So too, can Lombard.
"Lightning" is 34 years old and punches like a jackhammer. But even if he crushes a few cans while getting his feet wet inside the Octagon, I'll never be convinced he's any kind of threat to Silva until he's demonstrated his ability to stuff, defend or recover from multiple takedowns.
Because to get to "The Spider," you first have to swim with the sharks.