Two of the top ranked middleweights on the planet will collide this Saturday night (July 21, 2012) as former Bellator middleweight champion makes his UFC debut against established veteran Tim Boetsch in the co-main event of UFC 149 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Hector Lombard has widely been considered the best middleweight in the world that was not signed with the UFC. He enters this fight on a 25 bout unbeaten streak and riding a large wave of hype, although his strength of competition is pretty weak. Now, he'll get a chance to test exactly how good he really is.
Tim Boetsch was an average light heavyweight but he's looked terrific since dropping down to 185 pounds. He scored the biggest victory of his career in his last bout after enduring serious punishment against Yushin Okami, coming back with a vengeance in the third round to take the fight to the Japanese former title challenger. Now, he's got a chance to knock on the door for a title shot himself.
Will Lombard prove the hype real by shutting Boetsch down? Can "The Barbarian" withstand Lombard's early storm and take over in the second half of the fight? What's the key to victory for both men?
Let's find out:
Record: 31-2-1 (1 no contest) overall, 0-0 in the UFC
Key Losses: Gegard Mousasi (Pride Bushido 13)
How he got here: Hector Lombard was a former Olympic judo competitor for Cuba but defected and began training and competing in mixed martial arts. He looked strong early, but lost some tough fights against elite competition in Pride in the early part of his career.
But then he really settled in and found a home away from home in Australia, where he took on all the best Australian fighters, beating them from pillar to post. Eventually, "Shango" caught the attention of an upstart company named Bellator Fighting Championship and the rest is history.
Lombard would win three fights in three months to be crowned the inaugural Bellator middleweight champion and would be fed a constant stream of non-title opponents which he put down easily. Perhaps his most memorable Bellator moment was his six second knockout of UFC veteran Jay Silva.
He eventually defended his title in lackluster affair against Alexander Shlemenko and has since won a pair of bouts over UFC veterans Jesse Taylor and Trevor Prangley. When his contract expired earlier this year, he waited until the exclusive Bellator negotiating period ended and signed with the UFC.
After initially being slated to headline UFC on FOX 4 against Brian Stann, he'll now be in the co-main event against a very game Tim Boetsch.
How he gets it done: Lombard is an animal. He comes out of the gate firing on all cylinders and going for the kill. His favorite technique is simply to put his head down and start blasting his opponents with big hooks, hoping to put them down in the first minute of the fight.
If that doesn't work, Lombard will take a step back, gather himself and either start grappling with his opposition or perhaps use a little more technical striking. He's a very compact middleweight, not tall, but extremely muscular and powerful.
Lombard will likely be trying to steamroll Boetsch early, particularly taking advantage of his opponent's tendency to have a slow start. If he can blitz Boetsch in the first round, he'll do it. If not, this will turn into a much more patient war of attrition.
Record: 14-4 overall, 5-3 in the UFC
How he got here: A natural athlete, Tim Boetsch tore through the local scene in New Jersey to start out his career before earning the opportunity of a lifetime when he stepped in on three days' notice to fight Vladimir Matyushenko at an IFL event East Rutherford. He would lose a decision to "The Janitory," but it proved that he could hang with the big boys.
Just five months later, "The Barbarian" was making his UFC debut against David Heath where he proceeded to lay a beatdown on the veteran, finishing him off with a series of knees and one of the most violent tosses you'll ever see, which won over a wide margin of MMA fans.
Perhaps thrown into the deep end too quickly, Boetsch would go 2-2 in his first UFC stint, losing to both Matt Hamill and Jason Brilz, but it would only take him one year away from the promotion where he stopped all three of his opponents to earn another invite.
He went 1-1 at light heavyweight, but was overpowered by Phil Davis, which convinced him to make the cut to 185 pounds. Since dropping down, Boetsch has won consecutive decisions over the likes of Kendall Grove and Nick Ring to go on the first UFC winning streak of his young career. The AMC Pankration fighter is going to find out exactly what he's made of this Saturday night when he takes on former title challenger Yushin Okami.
How he gets it done: Tim Boetsch is not the fastest fighter out there, but he might be one of the strongest middleweights in the UFC. To take advantage of that, he needs to close the distance and get inside against Lombard.
If he can get inside, he possesses some powerful knees and his clinch is very dangerous, as we've seen him toss multiple people across the Octagon in his UFC career thus far. "The Barbarian" has some tricky judo attacks which can come from strange angles and catch his opponents off guard.
That being said, Lombard is a former judo Olympian, so if Boetsch is going to pull this off, he'll have to first wait until after the first round is over and Lombard slows down a bit.
If he can't get inside immediately, don't be surprised to see Boetsch throw some nice push or front kicks as he can really snap his lead leg out there surprisingly quickly.
Boetsch is capable of making big comebacks, but he might not be able to come back if Lombard nails him in the opening minute with a huge flurry of blows. He has to weather that storm of strikes from "Lightning" and then maybe he'll have a chance.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest X-Factor for this fight has to be the first round. Depending how this first round goes, the fight is going to be completely won or lost. Hector Lombard is an extremely quick starter while Tim Boetsch has shown a tendency to be a slow starter as evidenced by his fights against Nick Ring and Yushin Okami.
If Boetsch staggers out of the gate, Lombard is going to take advantage and this won't be Yushin Okami landing mid-level power strikes, these will be fight-ending blows coming from a man who has a serious history of distributing massive amounts of punishment.
If Boetsch can remain composed early on and not get suckered into Lombard's world, he has a decent chance of not only surviving the opening five minutes but also taking over especially in the third round.
Bottom Line: This fight has "entertainment" written all over it. Lombard brings the pain and Boetsch is the type of fighter who doesn't back down from a challenge. Sure, part of Boetsch knows Lombard hits hard, but the other part is curious and wants to see if the hype is real. Tim Boetsch is the perfect opponent to test if Hector Lombard is a worthy title contender and I fully expect this to be an extremely entertaining scrap whether it's 15 minutes or 15 seconds.
Who will come out on top at UFC 149? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!