This weekend, UFC 149 features the most high profile UFC debut since Alistair Overeem last year, as Bellator Middleweight champion Hector Lombard finally makes his way to the Octagon. Lombard's debut has been a long time coming - he was supposed to take part in UFC 78 back in 2007, but that didn't happen due to visa issues. In the 5 years since, Lombard has gone undefeated, putting together one of the best highlight reels in MMA and only increasing his demand among hardcore MMA fans.
But for casual fans, Lombard may remain a bit of an unknown. Who exactly is this guy? What can fans expect from him against Tim Boetsch on Saturday? And what are his prospects for a UFC future? We'll answer all of those questions in this introduction to Hector Lombard.
Lombard came to MMA in 2004 after putting together a very impressive resume in judo. Representing Cuba, Lombard came in 5th in Judo at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney where he competed at 73 kg. At first, he competed in his adopted home of Australia, but it was in Japan where he got his first big exposure.
In Japan, Lombard trained with fellow Olympic judoka Hidehiko Yoshida at the famed Yoshida Dojo. Yoshida got Lombard entry into the 2006 Pride Welterweight Grand Prix. Unfortunately, with just 6 pro fights to his name, Lombard wasn't quite ready for that level of competition and went 0-2 in Pride, losing to Akihiro Gono and Gegard Mousasi, both via decision. To this day, those 2006 defeats remain the only loses on Lombard's record.
He spent the next 2 years competing in Australia, picking up wins over James Te Huna and Brian Ebersole among others, but it was in 2009 that he got his real break. Lombard was entered into the inaugural Bellator Middleweight tournament, and was considered an early favorite. He steamrolled through that tournament, defeating Jared Hess in a bloodbath to become the first, and to date, only Bellator Middleweight champion.
Since that win, he's split his time between Bellator and Australia (primarily the CFC organization, where he also was champion). He's currently on a 25 fight undefeated streak, with only 6 of those 25 fights going the distance, and many of those stoppages coming via fast and spectacular KO. His biggest career wins come against Trevor Prangley, Alexander Shlemenko, and Brian Ebersole. Today, Lombard trains with American Top Team in Florida.
Much more, including fight videos, in the full entry.
Although Lombard came into MMA through a judo background, he rarely uses a more traditional judo styles approach. In the cage, Lombard has three primary weapons - his KO power, his ground and pound, and his wrestling.
Lombard is a very aggressive fighter. He's toned it down somewhat in recent years, but often comes fast out of the gate, swinging heavy punches and looking to finish the fight. And Lombard is most decidedly a finisher - he's one of those Chuck Liddell style guys who, if you get caught, will just swarm you for the finish. He has kicks and knees in his arsenal, but is more of a boxer on the feet.
A strong fighter, Lombard has also developed a superb wrestling game. He has good takedowns and a great sprawl that allows him to avoid his opponent taking the fight to the mat. When he does get opponents down, he does a good job maintaining top control. He's also absolutely vicious with his ground and pound, mixing in elbows with his punches to brutalize opponents on the mat. Those elbows have led to cut stoppage victories against both Hess and Joe Doerksen, and Lombard can land heavy ground and pound from most any top position on the ground.
Prospects for the future:
Here's where the big questions begin to come up. Because yes, Lombard has looked completely dominant for years now. But he's also done it against less than top level competition; Lombard has never faced a top 25 opponent. That's the blessing and the curse of putting together so many wins outside the UFC - you look great, but you aren't always tested by the best.
So what can we expect in the UFC? Look for Lombard to come out strong and fast and try to impress. If he doesn't get the early stoppage, he's more refined now, and will slow down the pace to search for his openings. He certainly has the power to ground Boetsch, and possibly to stop him on the feet. What we don't know os what will happen if Boetsch manages to impose his control on Lombard and put him on his back - that's not a position he's found himself in often.
Overall, Hector Lombard has the tools to be a top level fighter in the UFC Middleweight division. But he's also stepping in against the #6 Middleweight in the world. This is going to be a tough test for him - let's hope that no matter how Saturday plays out, he learns from the experience, and uses it to become a vital new name in the UFC.
Lombard has a huge number of impressive wins, so it's hard to pick what to highlight. But here are a few to give you an idea of what to expect at UFC 149.
Hector Lombard vs. Joe Doerksen
CFC 16 - March 25, 2011
Hector Lombard vs. Herbert Goodman
Bellator 24 - August 12, 2010
Hector Lombard vs. Tatsuya Kurisu
X-Agon 2 - November 2, 2007
Hector Lombard vs. Matthew Toa
UP - April 1, 2006