Hector Lombard (31-2) has long been trumpeted as one of the most dominant fighters in MMA even though he's yet to ply his trade in the ultimate proving grounds. Here's the appeal: Lombard is built like a silverback gorilla, he trains with a prestigious camp (American Top Team), he's held championship belts in the Bellator and Cage Fighting Championships (CFC) promotions and he wields a fearsome 3-dimensional arsenal replete with fast and powerful hands, Olympic level Judo and black-belt-level BJJ on the mat.
Beyond his esteemed agglomeration of skills, Lombard exudes a street-wise gameness and killer instinct that many accredited martial artists lack when crossing over to MMA. His last and only defeats were incurred in the Pride ring circa 2006 to Akihiro Gono and Gegard Mousasi, both by decision. Lombard is an avid finisher as well with 17 TKOs, 7 submissions and 19 career stoppages in the 1st round. Though he's never set foot in the Octagon, he's not only faced but decisively finished many who have or eventually would: James Te Huna, Brian Ebersole (both by TKO due to injury), Kalib Starnes, Joe Doerksen, Jay Silva, Falaniko Vitale, Trevor Prangley (all by TKO) and Jesse Taylor (heel hook).
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Tim Boetsch (15-4), a former Division 1 wrestler at Lock Haven University, etched a memorable Octagon debut by tossing David Heath on his head and battering him with haymakers like a bully collecting lunch money on the playground. He entered the UFC as a light-heavyweight with a 7-1 record, having finished each of his wins and lost only to reputable wrestler Vladimir Matyushenko in a 2007 IFL bout.
Boetsch got the boot after dropping 2 of his next 3 but notched 3-straight stoppages to earn another run. This time around, he split a pair of bouts (decision win over Todd Browne, submission loss to Phil Davis) and then decided to take the plunge down to 185-pounds. Boetsch scored decision wins over Kendall Grove and Nick Ring before narrowly escaping a loss to Yushin Okami by mounting a thrilling TKO comeback in the 3rd round.
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The prime directive for any opponent of Hector Lombard is surviving the 1st round. Historically, Lombard comes out like a bat out of hell and thoroughly determined to steam-roll his adversary through a hail of whirring leather or overbearing takedowns in the clinch. If he's unsuccessful, which isn't often, there's a marked change in his strategy -- he'll close out the fight hanging back and counter punching with a noticeable decline in aggression.
Unfortunately, that doesn't really make him any less dangerous. Lombard has lightning-fast hands and massive punching power, but pretty solid striking mechanics to boot. His straight and overhand left are his money punches, he turns it on with frenetic flurries that employ vicious hooks with both hands and has a functional left kick that he sails to the legs and body. Though his raw brutality shines through more than anything, Lombard is a skilled counter striker with good timing and accuracy. His defense is also adequate; he's been tagged square in the past but always shrugs it off and keeps plugging away.
Stemming from his history in Judo, his balance and base in the clinch are rock-solid. Offensively, he smashes his opponents into the fence, uses his head like a battering ram when fighting for position and digs his hips in deep while pursuing trips and throws. Defensively, Lombard has been susceptible to the occasional takedown, but that's where his BJJ experience comes in -- he enforces stifling control of the head to prevent any striking, shifts to one hip to kick his opponent away and then uses that space for hip escapes.
Boetsch is more of a straightforward fighter. He thrives on manhandling the competition at close range with a grinding clinch assault or by rifling double legs from outside. There's not much finesse in anything he does -- most of his success has been achieved through physical strength, close-quarter mauling with knees and punches or just a good ol' fashioned beatdown.
Grappling-wise, Boetsch has shown a grasp of position and guard passing from the top position but is usually content to fire away with heavy punches. He's a bit vulnerable from his back, as each of his losses were delivered by wrestling-based fighters who complemented their takedowns with a legit striking or submission acumen.
I think it's fair to draw the conclusion that Boetsch's success ultimately depends on imposing his will. Even in his latest middleweight bouts against Ring and Okami, he struggled early when he couldn't dictate the pace or overpower them, and Lombard should be plenty more immovable. Even if Boetsch can forge out an edge in entanglements, I don't think it'll be enough as Lombard will still have the advantage in striking and grappling technique.
It's hard to count Boetsch out after the tenacity and heart he's showed at middleweight, but I expect Lombard to be too quick for him on the feet and too slick on the mat while matching him somewhat in the wrestling and takedown department.
My Prediction: Hector Lombard by TKO.