Hector Lombard, without question, is the UFC’s biggest middleweight acquisition of 2012, and when one looks at what Lombard has done to earn his long-anticipated UFC debut, it’s easy to see why many have been so high on Lombard.
Look at it from any angle, but the simple fact of the matter is that Lombard, 31-2-1 as a professional, is currently on a 24-0-1 tear, a run that came four months after losing to Gegard Mousasi at Pride Bushido 13 in February 2006, and one that shows no signs of coming to an end. Since the Mousasi loss, men like James Te Huna, Brian Ebersole, Alexander Shlemenko, Trevor Prangley and others have fallen in some way to Lombard. The only man Lombard technically never defeated in that 24-0-1 streak was Kyle Noke, against whom Lombard scored a draw.
Fast forward to what awaits the former Bellator champion this Saturday—Tim “The Barbarian” Boetsch. Boetsch famously submitted to a “Philmura” at UFC 123, an event in which Boetsch found himself opposite previously undefeated Phil Davis. Following the loss to the accomplished NCAA Division I wrestler, Boetsch made the decision to drop to middleweight. Since the shift to 185, he has beaten Kendall Grove, Nick Ring and earlier this year, he scored a comeback win in round three of his UFC 144 bout against Yushin Okami.
In short, Boetsch is a dark horse, and despite his status as an underdog, many still remain confident in their prediction that Boetsch will snap Lombard’s streak this Saturday. Meanwhile, others feel Lombard will rise rather than fall. Though it is not officially a title eliminator, an impressive win for either man in this bout could put them one fight closer to a championship bid.
If Lombard is the man to halt Boetsch’s rise to the top, then “one step closer to the belt” is acceptable and justifiable. However, is Lombard the next man in line for the title shot if he beats Boetsch? Should Lombard leapfrog Chris Weidman, Alan Belcher and the winner of UFC 152’s Michael Bisping-Brian Stann affair for a title shot?
The answer to both questions is a heavy-hearted, yet justifiably emphatic “no,” and the explanation is akin to that of why Weidman must also dance with more middleweight wolves before he can take his spot in a bout against the man who dominates the pack.
For those who recall, I mentioned earlier this month that Weidman, who has called out UFC champion Anderson Silva ever since beating Mark Munoz at UFC on Fuel TV 4, needed to clear out the competition before he went ahead with a title fight. Not to take anything away from Weidman’s win over Munoz, but at this time, the title picture is once again in a familiar position in which a slew of fighters have legitimate cases to challenge Silva. Crazily enough, their cases are pleading at a time in which Silva really needs a challenge.
Like Weidman, Lombard has a case for such a challenge, and with a win over Boetsch, he’ll have a stronger argument towards the title shot than he does right now. Like Weidman, however, he’s in the middleweight title picture at a time when the only true way to know the champion’s next challenger is for the best of the bunch to wipe out the rest of the competition.
Of course, Lombard has to wipe out the rest of the men chomping at the bit if he wants his own shot at the champ—the same can be said for Weidman, Belcher, Stann and Bisping. True as that is, though, that is not the sole reason why Lombard should not expect to get Silva with a win over Boetsch.
The other reason why Lombard should not expect a fight with Silva with a win over Boetsch is Boetsch himself. Boetsch is a big middleweight and has proven his case as a dark horse in the division—as stated before, he pulled out a comeback to beat Okami. To put it another way, Boetsch has played the spoiler role to a tee, and the physical problems with which he will present Lombard on the feet and on the ground—at least, on paper—have made many fans wonder how impressive Lombard will look when the cage door closes.
Of course, the former Bellator middleweight champion knows this and will aim to do his best in putting on an unforgettable performance, but even if he does look phenomenal and worth his hype, there’s nothing stopping any other middleweight—Belcher, Stann and Bisping included—from making a more emphatic case. Besides that, UFC President Dana White has said that he’ll have answers for the MMA world Saturday on who will come next for Lombard, if he should beat Boetsch.
It will not be Munoz, and right now, even with a convincing win over Boetsch, Lombard should not see Silva quite yet. It is not a bad thing though, because all fighters find their way to greatness eventually, and Lombard’s star has time to shine. If he should beat Boetsch, Lombard could find himself close to that fight with Silva, whether he wants it or not.
However, Lombard’s thunderous knockout power will have to meet a few more chins before he earns that superfight with Silva. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s a task Lombard is more than up to, and if Lombard’s streak is any indication, it will be a task that leaves quite a few middleweights down and out in the process.
Photo: Hector Lombard (William Musacchia/Sherdog)