Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) welterweights Hector Lombard and Josh Burkman will collide this Saturday (Jan. 3, 2015) at UFC 182 inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
At welterweight, Lombard has looked like the monster promised when the Cuban was recruited from Bellator. After a vicious knockout over Nate Marquardt and easy decision victory over longtime contender Jake Shields, "Showeather" will look to add a former World Series of Fighting (WSOF) champion's name to his list of notable wins.
Though Burkman is riding just a single fight win streak when he got re-signed, "The People's Warrior" revitalized his career under the WSOF banner. With key finishes over Jon Fitch and Aaron Simpson, Burkman proved that he's a top-tier fighter.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for each fighter.
Record: 33-4-1 (1)
Key Wins: Jake Shields (UFC 171), Nate Marquardt (UFC 166), Rousimar Palhares (UFC on FX 6)
Key Losses: Tim Boestch (UFC 149), Yushin Okami (UFC on Fuel TV 8)
Keys to Victory: Lombard is an athletic freak. He's shockingly agile and powerful, able to overwhelm his opponent with brutal clinch work or power punches. Together, these attributes have led to an impressive 19 knockout victories.
Thus far, Lombard's main problem has been getting going. At middleweight, Lombard lost decisions to both Boestch and Okami due to his inability to open up with his offense.
That has yet to be an issue at welterweight.
In this bout, Lombard really just needs to focus on his energy usage. Burkman is a tough veteran who's never been finished via strikes, meaning that simply pouring on offense early would not be the best game plan. If he fails to secure the finish, he could find himself gassed and at the hands of an opportunistic finisher.
Instead, Lombard needs to pick his moments to explode. While he judges distance and Burkman's reactions, Lombard should simply wait for an opportunity. Then, he can explode into a counter punch or combination.
Quite frankly, it only takes a couple of these explosions for the momentum to shift into "Lightning's" favor. Similarly, Lombard could look to toss Burkman to the mat, and conserve energy by controlling from top position.
Key Wins: Jon Fitch (WSOF 3), Aaron Simpson (WSOF 2), Gerald Harris (WSOF 1)
Key Losses: Steve Carl (WSOF 6)
Keys to Victory: Burkman is a gamer in every way. Nearly 40 fights into his career, Burkman is fighting better than ever, and his striking has looked more dangerous in the last two years than at any point in his career.
It was instrumental to his guillotine finish over Jon Fitch.
This is definitely a tough match up for Burkman. In fact, the reason that Burkman was re-signed seems to be that very few top welterweights want to fight Lombard. Still, that doesn't mean the veteran can't pull off a pretty major upset.
In order to defeat Lombard, Burkman has to get his muscular opponent tired. To do that, Burkman is going to have to force Lombard to work constantly and slowly exhaust him.
The problem with this game plan is that when Lombard works, he usually does horrible, violent things to his opponent. Burkman will find himself in dangerous positions and absorb heavy shots, but he needs to persevere.
If Burkman can remain conscious in exchanges and fights without fear, he'll be able to land his own shots. Eventually, he'll be able to turn the tide as Lombard slows down. That's obviously a pretty important "if," but Burkman is not in a position to win a technical fight unless Lombard makes some type of mental mistake, which he should not count on.
Bottom Line: At the moment there are plenty of potential title contenders near the top of the welterweight division. Still, a victory here puts the winner on the shortlist for a title eliminator bout.
That's especially true for Lombard. Not only is Lombard defeating top opponents, but he's doing it in frightening fashion. Since some fighters ranked in the top 10 have no interest in fighting the Cuban, it will only make his rise quicker.
On the other hand, a loss would set Lombard back quite a bit. He's supposed to win this fight in dominant fashion, which would make defeat pretty hard to come back from, especially since Lombard is well into his thirties.
Burkman has a hell of an opportunity here. He appears to be in the prime of his career, so this is the perfect time for this fight to be made. If Burkman can take this victory, he'll likely end up in a title eliminator bout before long.
The more likely scenario is that Burkman loses this fight. Even if that happens, Burkman is still back fighting in the Octagon and could potentially earn a top-10 ranking depending on his performance.
At UFC 182, welterweight contenders Hector Lombard and Josh Burkman will slug it out. Which fighter will advance further in the crowded division?