The main card of UFC on FX 6 will feature a middleweight humdinger that pits Hector Lombard vs. Rousimar Palhares. The match joins the finals in the TUF Smashes lightweight and welterweight division and the show's headliner of George Sotiropoulos vs. Ross Pearson, and airs this Friday (December 14, 2012) at 9:00 p.m. ET on the FX channel.
Is it really fair to give former Bellator middleweight champ Hector Lombard (31-3) the "Ermaguhd, told you he was over-rated" treatment for fighting to a near-draw with top contender Tim Boetsch in his long awaited Octagon debut?
Was the performance overwhelmingly disappointing? Yeah, though mostly because we were expecting the beast-mode Lombard that pieced together a monumental 25-fight win streak beforehand. Was Lombard really convincingly defeated by Boetsch though? Hell no. I had it scored for Lombard and find a draw or razor-thin nod for Boetsch acceptable, but going tit-for-tat with the 5th-best middleweight in the world is far from the embarrassing failure it's being painted as. Will I continue to ask myself questions and answer them? Who knows?
The gorilla-sized Cuban was burdened with big expectations for his UFC premiere but fought uncharacteristically complacent and devoid of any urgency. That could be in part due to his corner's soothing assurance in between rounds when lighting a fire under his ass would've been more realistic and effective. The big selling points for Lombard are his freakishly sculpted proportions, his accolades of an Olympic Judoka, his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and, most of all, the crushing devastation of his southpaw boxing.
Unlike many other trumpeted prospects fighting outside the UFC, Lombard's track record is far from diluted, as he boasts vicious TKOs over former or current UFC talent in Trevor Prangley, Falaniko Vitale, Joe Doerksen, Kalib Starnes, Brian Ebersole (the latter pair being submissions via strikes) and James Te Huna (submission via injury). Overall Lombard's record is punctuated by 17 TKOs with 7 submissions and decisions apiece, with just 3 defeats in 34 fights.
Brazilian Top Team madman Rousimar Palhares (14-4) is a must-see fighter. Whether he's sailing acrobatically across the Octagon while salivating over a juicy human limb to mangle or folding opponents up with a high kick only to hop on the fence and celebrate before the fight's actually been stopped ... tune in for "Toquinho."
For the skill-set of Palhares, it goes good (striking), better (wrestling) and best (submissions). There's no question that his creative and frenetic pursuit of outrageous chokes and locks has elevated Palhares into the top echelon of the sport's submissionists. For a BJJ specialist, there are 2 things that differentiate Palhares: the first is his avid propensity for leg locks, which are somewhat uncommon for Jiu-Jitsu purists, and the fact that he creates his own opportunities to apply submissions with solid wrestling and innovative tactics, such as diving for rolling kneebars.
The striking savvy of Palhares seemed a little shaky when he first emerged, but it's hard not to fondly recall the jaw-dropping, head-bashing high kick he tagged Dan Miller with. I don't think he'll be laying out a sprawl-and-brawl strategy anytime soon, but his kickboxing has definitely progressed from unremarkable to legit. The main advantage of posing even a miniscule threat on the feet is that it gives Palhares' opponents something to think about other than parting with some useful body part.
Though his striking has become an effective distraction, I don't think there's any question that Palhares has to get this fight to floor to win. Wait ... a better way to word that would be that Palhares has to submit Lombard to win, as out-striking him on the feet or consistently taking down an Olympic Judoka to win all 3 rounds is highly unlikely. So, if he can't score traditional takedowns, the only other option for Palhares is some of his unpredictable magic in the form of going airborne for flying submissions, latching on a neck-choke in the clinch (does Lombard even have a neck?) or hopping onto his back and finagling something amazing from there.
While we've come to expect the unexpected from Palhares, the aforementioned list of options is not encouraging. Lombard is a Sherman tank and just as much of an unreal physical specimen as Palhares, and we're talking about a truly world class Judoka here, and one who'll be surrounded by a force-field of lightning fast, bone-crushing punches. The kicker for me is that, even if Palhares can manipulate a ground battle, Lombard is a BJJ black belt and quite adept with submission defense and defensive scrambling.
I can't help but see this as a nightmare match up for Palhares. While everyone knew that surviving and escaping his submissions is the key to victory against him, only a prestigious few have accomplished it: Dan Henderson, Nate Marquardt and Alan Belcher. They did so with powerful striking and top-shelf submission defense (and, excluding Belcher, takedown defense), all of which Lombard is perfectly suited to replicate.
My Prediction: Hector Lombard by TKO.