The struggle to stay relevant in an ever-changing environment is something every UFC fighter endures on a regular basis. With new contenders emerging after each show, one bad showing in the Octagon could mean a lifetime of work is rendered worthless.

It’s a place that UFC middleweights Hector Lombard and Rousimar Palhares find themselves in this Saturday. The two are set to face one another in a highly-anticipated clash between two of the more well-known 185-pounders in the company right now. Although both men are easily recognizable by name, the two have struggled recently when it comes to performances in the Octagon.

Palhares has been with the company since UFC 84 and has competed against some of the best fighters in the world at middleweight. He’s notorious for his leglocks, specifically the heel hook submission. It’s easy to label Palhares as a one-trick pony due to the nature of his victories, but it’s a trick that works more often than not. The Brazilian has racked up an overall record of 7-3 in the UFC with four of those victories coming via heel hook or kneebar.

Still, Palhares has struggled when it comes to facing upper-level competition. All three of his losses came when the Brazilian was bumped up to the upper level of talented fighters. Palhares is coming off a loss against Alan Belcher in his last fight.

After receiving quite a bit of hype for his UFC debut, Lombard also finds himself coming off a loss. The former Bellator champion had become one of the top fighters competing outside the Octagon, and all eyes in the MMA world were upon him and Tim Boetsch at UFC 149. Lombard failed to do anything except load up his vaunted right hand in an attempt to knock Boetsch out with a single shot.

Instead of validating his place as one of the most respected competitors at middleweight, Lombard left fans questioning just how good of a fighter he actually was. Lombard himself took to his Facebook account to explain that an injured pectoral muscle was the cause of the bad performance. As with any injury claim following a loss, fans are divided as to whether to believe the fighter or believe it’s nothing more than an excuse.

Finding an excuse as to why either man should be held in high esteem may be in order if Lombard or Palhares comes up short on Saturday night. A loss for either man would mark back-to-back defeats with the company, which generally means the dreaded chopping block is not too far around the corner.

Lombard needs the win to validate the reputation he built outside the Octagon or else face the label of not being a “UFC-caliber” fighter. Palhares needs the win to validate his place among the upper level of middleweights and avoid being labeled as a gatekeeper in the division.

Both men need victories, so it will be interesting to see who comes out with a fire lit under their behind and seizes the chance to raise their stock in the company. The loser could see their place on the rankings board fall, depending on how they perform. Each man has a lot to lose, but a lot to gain as well. So let’s hope it leads to 15 minutes or less of non-stop action, something we’d expect out of a fight between Lombard and Palhares.

Photo: Hector Lombard (Sherdog)

About The Author

Kyle Symes
Staff Writer

Kyle is a recent graduate of Aurora University, where he obtained a Bachelor's in Communications. Kyle resides in Illinois, just outside of Chicago. He played baseball and football in both high school and college, but is now focusing on an amateur MMA career.