When we last left our heroes...This fight has potential in all the ways that potential can be used to imply something derogatory in nature. After all, it's a clash of styles in a way that could beget three rounds of violent leering.
I don't know what else I'm supposed to say here. Shields is turning himself into something of a pariah, despite being a single father, and a total sweetheart in general. All of his UFC fights have been won by decision, putting him to 29-6-1 (1 NC) overall. Three were split decisions. Another one was overturned after he failed the post fight drug test. Oh, ok. I get it now.
Shields, for all of his faults, continues to get it done in the cage. His style is anything but aesthetically pleasing while his opponent this weekend is anything but.
At 33-4-1 (and 1 NC), Lombard has managed 19 of those wins by knockout. However, despite his dramatic success outside of the UFC, he's managed only a 2-2 record. Both losses were by split decision while both wins were emphatic first round KO's. Lombard is a win spectacular, lose unspectacular kind of fighter and this weekend will be no different.
As fascinating as this matchup is on paper, fans may leave this fight wishing it was left on the page.
What both men can do: I'm not one of those. Even the most boring fights at least provide us answers about who a fighter is, and where they're headed. A win for either man means a high profile fight with title shot implications in the near future.
Shields wants the fight in the clinch, and on the ground. He's one of the best top control grapplers in the sport. Not even Demian Maia was able to solve Shields. It was a close fight, but a fight that highlighted just how truly capable Shields is on the ground. It's also important to note that there is a real skill to fighting off your back, but not in the traditional offensive way full of armbars and triangles. In terms of defense from his back, Shields has mastered the ability to reverse and sweep. He's as good as it gets when it comes to avoiding exchanges from an opponent in top control.
It's easy to make fun of his striking. Even the words "where's my rematch bro" reminds us of how Shields can't even muster a violent punch in a street fight.
But he throws his jab with conviction, and never abandons his gameplan. He's a very active fighter despite being so unassuming, and Jake incorporates leg kicks into his grappling centric style well, which is important for someone who actively wants the fight on the ground.
Lombard, like Shields, is a top control grappler as well. But he uses that top control for unmitigated violence. His strength is landing some of the cleanest, most brutal strikes you'll see in this sport. He's got heavy hands, and a nice overhand left that he's looking to land either in flurries, or when counter striking. With his Judo background, it'll tough to see how exactly Shields wins this fight without the ground exchanges.
Here's our own Kid Nate, Dallas Winston and Connor Ruebusch talking about the bout:
What both men can't do: As a quick aside, I don't intentionally mean to enrage readers with the above photo. Seems like everytime I stick that one up there, fans go nuts. Rightfully so, granted, but the picture also illustrates his flaws for me. So when I say his jab is, say...inelegant, you know exactly what I mean.
Nonetheless, it's been mostly efficient as well. But how often can you get away with it? What will stop Lombard from being able to wing huge punches that find their mark on Shields' chin even against slower fighters? Shields has a very good chin. We saw that against Dan Henderson, who landed flush on Shields with his patented "h-bomb" (cue eye roll). He keeps his head straight up, and his hands aren't always kept high enough. For all of GSP's talents, he landed some of the ugliest punches I've ever seen an elite mixed martial artist throw, but Jake's porous defense allowed him to.
It's tough to pick against Shields though. Woodley kind of reminds me of Lombard, and Shields managed to avoid getting brutalized like I thought he might. But it was a decision some felt should have gone Woodley's way so there's also that. The big difference is that Lombard has a killer instinct, unlike Woodley. Tyron seemed too content to fight passively in the clinch and from afar. Lombard salivates for that highlight reel knockout.
I feel like picking Lombard is against my better judgment, but the challenge Shields is facing just seems insurmountable. Lombard has the takedown defense, and the brutal speed and power to land on the feet. Shields has the ability to make the fight a clinchfest, but he's never so committed to clinching that it's all he can do. I suspect he'll be active enough on the feet to give Lombard just enough looks.
X-Factor: You mean besides the five fingered jabs of Jake's? It's hard to say. Yes, the judges have been factors in all of Jake's fights but I think the real challenge will be how Lombard deals with Jake's leg kicks. Shields seems inexplicably effective on the feet, yet despite seeming forever outmatched, his leg kicks seem to keep fighters honest. They're afraid to take the necessary chances, and Shields has mastered the art of making the innocuous efficacious.
In-Fight Soundtrack: Not really sure what this says about my taste in music, but despite my prediction, I still feel like Shields will somehow end up winning. Everytime he does, and the MMA hive mind sighs in frustration, I only hear this.
Prediction: Hector Lombard by TKO, round 2.