When Hector Lombard was about to make his long-awaited UFC debut this past summer against Tim Boetsch, there was considerable hype that he would be the next challenger for Anderson Silva’s middleweight title upon his dispatching of Boetsch. The hype was justified, seeing that Lombard had not lost since late 2006, had many spectacular wins during that span, and left Bellator with their belt in hand.
That talk all came screeching to a halt when Lombard laid an egg against Boetsch at UFC 149. Not only did he lose a split decision, but the fight was universally panned as action-less and generally painful to watch. I agree, as I can honestly say I would rather go to the dentist than sit through those fifteen minutes again. As a result, the talk of Lombard getting a title shot is long-stopped, and been replaced with talk that he was a Dana White $700,000 mistake.
Now Lombard returns to the octagon tonight to take on Rousimar Palhares at UFC on FX. Although it is probably the most cliche cliche in all of sports, this fight may be a must-win for Lombard. Especially if his contract is as lucrative as has been discussed, it would make little sense for the UFC to keep him around if he drops another stink bomb tonight. I don’t think Lombard necessarily needs to win, but he cannot come out as tentative and slow as he did in his last fight. That Hector Lombard isn’t going to get another high profile fight against anybody, and may find himself packing a bag to head back to Bellator.
Paul Harris won’t be an easy task for Lombard, either, as he should have enough brute strength to at least make that department a toss up. It will obviously be key for Lombard to avoid the brutal heel hooks and knee bars that have gotten Rousimar where he is today.
That being said, this seems like a fight where Lombard should be able to do well, especially if he comes out with the aggression that he often exhibited during his massive undefeated streak. As Alan Belcher and Nate Marquardt have proven, if you can avoid the submissions long enough, Palhares is vulnerable to strikes. And, as Lombard has shown in the past, opponents’ consciousness are vulnerable to Lombard’s fist.
Because of all of this, I think the Lombard-Palhares fight is the most interesting bout on the UFC on FX card. If Lombard loses again, Dana will really have egg on his face for spending so much on a fighter that turned out to be a pretty resounding flop. At the same time, if Lombard is able to score an impressive win, the stink of the Boetsch fight will have all been cleaned, and instantly the UFC will have another middleweight capable of being put in fights with the upper echelon of the suddenly-deep division.
I don’t see much in terms of middle ground. As a result, seems pretty much like a “must win” to me.