UFC 149: "Faber vs. Barao" took place last night (Sat., July 21, 2012) from the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and featured the Octagon debuts of two fighters on long win streaks with heavy hype on opposite ends of the spectrum.
Hector Lombard showed up in "The Great White North" having gone almost six full years without suffering a loss. He wasn't just winning, though. No, he was destroying nearly everyone that stood across from him, piling up championships and accolades all along the way.
Naturally, this led to a call from the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and a prominent spot on one of its fight cards. He was pushed as a killer, a guy who could legitimately challenge Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva and could very well be the one to finally dethrone the 185-pound king. First, he would have to make a good first impression against Tim Boetsch, a top 10 world ranked talent.
Jimmo, meanwhile, was the exact opposite. Sure, he had the titles from outside organizations and the long winning streak to help him find his way onto a UFC card. But he was stuck on the prelims fighting Anthony Perosh and saddled with the worst reputation a fighter can be stuck with.
Heading into last night's event, both men were not only tasked with trying to simply do their jobs by defeating the opponent standing across from them, they were also dealing with the fact that they had to manage expectations, fair or not.
The results couldn't have been more surprising.
Lombard lost a split decision to Boetsch in a fight that was probably closer than anyone wants to think it was. But no one is left analyzing the bout to probe deeper for any controversy. It was close enough to warrant as much but the collective reaction is more about what Lombard failed to do in his big debut.
He made the worst first impression imaginable.
Maybe he was injured. Boetsch certainly has that excuse, as it was revealed after the fight that he suffered a broken foot early on that greatly hampered his ability to work his game plan.
But what's "Shango's" excuse? He was flat footed throughout the fight, looked slow, disinterested, and failed to put together combinations. He would sprawl to avoid a takedown, thrown one power punch every eight seconds or so, and get peppered with kicks.
He had a few moments in the fight but anything less than an impressive knockout was going to disappoint. After all, a title shot against the pound-for-pound greatest fighter of all time was likely on the line.
Jimmo, on the other hand, read all the forums and blog posts decrying his near complete and utter inability to excite fans. His reputation was deserved, too, and he'll probably admit that to you.
Last night went a long way towards changing that.
Indeed, "Big Deal" knocked out Perosh in seven seconds, tying the record for the fastest knockout in UFC history. He earned a $65,000 "Knockout of the Night" bonus and more good will with fans and his bosses than any number of wins or titles on the regional circuit ever could have bought him.
Which brings us to why we shouldn't overreact to either of these fights.
Lombard didn't perform at the level we're used to seeing of him. But really, that's to be expected. When Aaron Rodgers goes 34-37 for 457 yards, 4 touchdowns and 0 interceptions against the St. Louis Rams, we all recognize that he was able to do so not just because he's talented and maybe the best quarterback in the National Football League (NFL), but because the Rams have one of its worst defenses.
Does that mean we should view him differently when he posts a 17-30 for 189 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception stat line against the Baltimore Ravens? Certainly not. The level of competition simply went up and one mediocre performance in however many games shouldn't be considered a pattern.
Lombard has time to recover from this and he likely will. Let's not write him off just yet.
As for Jimmo, once again, he did the opposite. He did get to play the St. Louis Rams and he did what any truly good team like the Green Bay Packers should do in that scenario -- he crushed. But, again, that doesn't necessarily mean he's any more prepared or any more likely to have a similar performance against the Ravens.
Jimmo is good but is he elite? We'll have to stay tuned for that.
Lombard isn't really as bad as he looked last night and Jimmo isn't really as good. The lesson? We all need to learn to manage our expectations a little better.