Nearly four years ago, Bellator Fighting Championships was announced as a weekly, tournament-style mixed martial arts (MMA) alternative to the pay-per-view-centric Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
Their first season wasn't widely seen as it aired on the Spanish-language ESPN Deportes channel but the framework was there for continued success with the likes of Eddie Alvarez choking lightweights out en route to a title victory and Toby Imada's amazing hanging inverted triangle.
But while the focus seemed to be on the 155-pounders, there was a middleweight running through the first season's tournament with near-reckless abandon.
His name was Hector Lombard and if he landed a solid punch, his opponent was going to sleep.
The American Top Team product finally makes his long-awaited UFC debut this Saturday (July 21) when he steps inside the Octagon against Tim Boetsch in the co-main event of UFC 149: "Faber vs. Barao." He was originally set to tangle with Brian Stann on the next Fox card and Boetsch with Michael Bisping but injuries sidelines those two men.
Going into his Octagon debut, Lombard is riding an eight fight winning streak in his former stomping grounds of Bellator and a two dozen fight winning streak overall dating back to the days of PRIDE Fighting Championships.
31 wins in total with 24 coming within the distance and 17 of those ending by knockout.
Vicious power and the kind of killer instinct which cannot be taught, Lombard is ready to take the Octagon by storm.
Before he faces off against "The Barbarian," we'll take a look back at Lombard's Bellator title win, a bloody fourth round doctor stoppage over Jared Hess.
Lombard starts the fight be taking the center of the cage with Hess circling around, careful to avoid any strike from his opponent's almost comically large arms.
Built more like a superhero than a mixed martial artist, Lombard quickly gets Hess onto his back. The American tosses up a triangle attempt and while it doesn't stick, it does allow him to get back to a vertical base. Bullying Lombard against the cage, Hess narrowly avoids a lightning fast two-punch combination from his opponent on the break.
Hess dives in for a takedown but Lombard sprawls out perfectly while throwing more quick uppercuts and hooks. Each punch Lombard throws has ill intentions behind it as evidenced by his previous two first round knockouts.
The other shoe finally drops when an uppercut lands and causes Hess' knees to buckle. To his credit, he refuses to go down despite eating several more punches and a minute later, he forces Lombard to enter the second round for the first time in his Bellator career.
As impressive as that may be, it doesn't keep Hess' left eye from beginning to swell shut.
Midway through the second round, Hess has twice attempted to get the fight to the canvas and twice Lombard has foiled him as the Cuban-born fighter is deadset on keeping this affair standing. It's not until the American's third attempt he finally succeeds. But instead of putting "Lightning" on his back, Hess pull guard and winds up with Lombard on top of him where he proceeds to rain down ground and pound.
Going into the third round, Hess' left eye is a purple, bloated mess. He once again quickly tries to get the fight to the mat but finds no success. Conversely, Lombard's takedown attempt a few seconds later ends with the American getting slammed to the canvas. The American Top Team fighter then batters Hess from above and opens a huge gash on his forehead.
The blood loss is so prevalent, the doctor is brought in to take a look at the cut. Swollen left eye and a bloody wound over his right, Hess is wearing the literal scars of fighting Lombard for three and a half rounds.
The fight is restarted only to be stopped for a second time moments later. The third round is finally allowed to end after some more vicious ground and pound from Lombard and it seems the writing is on the wall for the tough American.
Sure enough, less than two minutes into the first championship bout, a handful of brutal elbows on the ground causes another timeout and this time, the doctor has seen enough.
Lombard absolutely dominated his opponent, never finding himself in trouble once. It was a position he grew accustomed to while fighting under the Bellator banner.
Can he replicate that success in the UFC?