Hector Lombard (31-2-1, 0-0 UFC) vs. Tim Boetsch (15-4, 6-3 UFC)
The Matchup: Lombard has all the ear-markings of stardom: a 25-fight winning streak that includes titles in the Bellator Fighting Championships and Cage Fighting Championship promotions, an impressive YouTube collection of highlight-reel blowouts and a certain level of craziness that makes each one of his fights a must-watch event. With all that in his favor, there is the question of the caliber of competition the Cuban has faced during his mixed martial arts career. While one does not accumulate such an impressive resume by accident, most of Lombard’s signature victories have come against UFC journeyman rather than established stars.
Until his recent Cinderella turn at UFC 144, Boetsch fit the journeyman mold perfectly. However, after his improbable comeback win against former No. 1 contender Yushin Okami in Japan, “The Barbarian” is sitting pretty at 3-0 in the middleweight division, perhaps a win or two from serious title contention. This has all the makings of a fun slugfest. While Lombard is a black belt in both judo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, he is also an explosive striker with heavy hands who likes to control the center of the cage in his fights. “Lightning” moves forward without fear of repercussions, and he will quickly swarm when he senses his opponent is hurt. This would seem to work in Boetsch’s favor, because the AMC Pankration representative possesses accurate power punches, as well as a strong Thai clinch, to handle attacks in close quarters.
As he demonstrated against Okami, Boetsch also knows how to fight with a sense of urgency when he is behind; not everyone is as confident to pull the trigger when they have been dominated over the course of two rounds. With that said, Lombard seems to have a counter for everything Boetsch does well. In tie-ups, the Olympic judoka has a wide array of throws and trips, and his formidable upper-body strength will make it difficult for Boetsch to push him around the cage. He will also struggle to take down Lombard, especially if he resorts to throwing one punch at a time instead of using combinations to close the distance.
Since moving to middleweight, Boetsch’s conditioning has improved considerably, but Lombard has been to the championship rounds and has proven that he can fight methodically when the situation calls for a change of pace: witness his top-control oriented performance in a five-round Bellator title defense against Alexander Shlemenko in 2010. Boetsch would do well to control Lombard’s head should he wind up on his back to limit the Cuban’s vicious elbows and punches.
The Pick: Lombard will look to set a rapid pace early, and Boetsch’s recent tendency to start slowly could haunt him. The good news for Boestch is that Lombard likes to do many of the same things he is good at. The Cuban’s aggression will carry him here, and he will get a TKO win late in round two.
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