It is said that the UFC spent around $700,000 last summer to get Hector Lombard to compete in the Octagon and fight Tim Boetsch at UFC 149 in Calgary. At the time, people were already talking about a potential matchup between Lombard and Anderson Silva as if Boetsch was merely a stepping stone. However, after three five-minute rounds that seemed more like a staring contest than a real fight, Hector was on the losing end of a split decision. All of the built-up sizzle had dissipated. Maybe Public Enemy said it best: “Don’t believe the hype.”
“It’s the unfortunate thing about hype,” UFC president Dana White said. “When there’s a lot of hype behind you and you don’t live up to the hype, it goes away real quick.”
Sure there was a ton of fanfare and excitement that surrounded the man they call “Shango,” but for good reason. Lombard was on a tear and had amassed a 25-fight unbeaten streak that made everyone drool at the possibilities of what this man could do on the biggest stage of all. Yet, when it was all said and done, the majority of fans and media received a reality check. Although a fighter can garner himself a reputation outside of the UFC that doesn’t mean he will ultimately succeed when he finally does arrive.
“This is one of those things; the guy was on a 25-fight win streak, a lot of people were high on him, people have been talking about him forever,” said White. “Guys that fight in other organizations end up in top-10 rankings, and it’s a whole other world over here.”
It wasn’t like Boetsch did anything jaw-dropping to stop the Cuban native; in fact, what was more shocking is that Lombard didn’t look like the man that we all witnessed in Bellator Fighting Championships. There was no aggression or mayhem, instead we saw a tentative and almost nervous fighter who appeared to be withering under the big lights. Although many chalked it up to Octagon jitters, Hector and his camp said it was an injury that kept him from doing what he wanted to do to Boetsch.
“I had a fractured sternum in that fight, so it was hard for me to breathe out there,” said Lombard. “But even so I still think I won it. I wish I could have put on a better display for the fans too.”
Now it’s time for Lombard to rebuild that reputation of being a human wrecking machine. This Friday night at UFC on FX 6, in front of his quasi-adopted hometown of the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia, Lombard will be looking to restore the hype and remind us once again why he is a force to be reckoned with in the UFC’s middleweight division. It will be no easy task as he takes on the always tough and dangerous Rousimar Palhares.
Watch the entire UFC on Sportsnet: Sotiropoulos vs. Pearson fight card Friday from 6-11 p.m. ET on Sportsnet ONE.
It will be interesting to see which “Shango” we will see in the opening bout of the main card. The word enigma gets thrown around when describing Lombard but maybe a bout with Palhares is just what the doctor, er, Joe Silva ordered. Expect Rousimar to come at Lombard from the opening bell. Whether the fight stays standing or we see a BJJ war on the ground, Palhares is likely to pour on the pressure, and maybe that will bring out the best from the former Bellator beast.
Lombard’s UFC debut in Calgary can be chalked up to awful, and yes many people have prematurely written him off, but do not judge until this Friday night. Many fighters have succumbed to the Octagon jitters or stage fright. Sometimes it takes comfort and confidence to bring out the best in an athlete. 31 previous victories in professional MMA does not count for nothing. Lombard is an experienced assassin who knows that his window to show the world what he can do is now. Nobody understands Lombard’s potential better than his American Top Team coach Conan Silveira.
“As a fighter he has everything a fighter wants to have in this business and at this level,” Silveira told UFC.com. “You see the way he trains, the way he sees, the motivation and the dedication. It’s really hard to find somebody who can put all of those things together in one package, but he does.”
Some believe that Lombard is too short for the middleweight division and that for him to be successful in the UFC he should drop to 170 pounds. If you have never seen Lombard up close, he would probably have to cut off one of his arms to make welterweight. There is just way too much muscle on that man to think that he could drop another fifteen pounds. Luckily you can put Palhares in the same category as both men are the same height and both men are built like tanks.
The key to the fight is if Lombard can hang with Rousimar’s high-end ground game and avoid the devastating leg lock. My guess is Lombard is going to want to keep the fight standing to see if he can stop Palhares via TKO or KO. There is a lot of pride in Lombard and you know he wants to make his UFC debut a distant memory.
When you look up the true meaning of the word hype, Webster tells us that it means extravagant or intensive publicity or promotion. Maybe there isn’t as much surrounding Lombard now, but don’t be surprised if he shines when there is less shine. For now the UFC is his home and when the cage door shuts this Friday night in Oz, we could finally see what all the fuss was about.
Will it be fizzle or sizzle? That will depend on which Hector Lombard decides to enter the Octagon.
Trevor Dueck writes for MMASucka.com and you can also listen to him on MMASucka Radio. Follow him on Twitter @tdueckMMA.