Hector Lombard has won 20 of his last 21 fights. | Photo: Sherdog.com
Hector Lombard (31-3-1, 0-1 UFC) vs. Rousimar Palhares (14-4, 7-3 UFC)
The Matchup: When it comes to matchmaking, some bouts are not immediately obvious. They require careful thought and consideration to finally come to fruition. Lombard-Palhares is the exact opposite, a no-brainer of a fight if there ever was one. Both men have compact, muscular builds; both have devoted cult followings; and both have a certain unpredictable nature that can be charming and unnerving at the same time.
That is not all the two middleweights have in common. Both men are coming off relatively high-profile and disappointing losses, and another setback here could prove extremely damaging to the long-term title hopes of either fighter.
Lombard’s long-awaited UFC debut was marked by frustratingly long periods of inactivity, which ultimately resulted in a lackluster split-decision loss to Tim Boetsch. The Cuban judoka seemed content to wait for his opponent to make a mistake, with his most significant offense coming in the form of a pair of takedowns and a solid body kick. A case can be made that Lombard deserved to win that fight, but the fact remains that he barely resembled the wrecking machine who had not lost in more than five years leading up to his initial Octagon foray.
Meanwhile, Palhares looked very hittable against Alan Belcher once his initial kneebar and heel hook salvo failed at UFC on Fox 3. “Toquinho” is still one of the most feared submissions artists in the sport today, but his inability to deliver against higher-caliber competition -- see losses to Belcher, Nate Marquardt and Dan Henderson -- raises questions as to whether he will ever be a top-tier contender at 185 pounds.
As a former Cage Fighting Championships titleholder, Lombard is extremely popular Down Under. Perhaps having an increased comfort level in familiar surroundings will help to eliminate some of the passivity that plagued him in the loss to Boetsch. At his best, Lombard stalks his foe, moving forward and throwing powerful punches with ill-intent. His considerable upper body strength will come in handy against Palhares, who has a powerful shot and averages more than four takedowns landed per 15 minutes, according to FightMetric.com.
As he demonstrated against Belcher, Palhares will not hesitate to dive for a leg in hopes of securing his patented heel hook. However, if that approach fails -- and it could against a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt like Lombard -- the Brazilian must take better measures to protect himself on the ground.
While Lombard favors the explosive finish, he can also employ methodical ground-and-pound, as he did in dispatching Alexander Shlemenko. If Palhares gets too frantic in trying to create scrambles and transitions on the floor, he risks eating heavy leather from his opponent.
The Pick: Give Lombard a mulligan for his disappointing debut. Palhares will find it difficult to score takedowns, forcing him to engage in a heavy-handed slugfest. In that situation, the edge goes to Lombard, who wins via technical knockout in round two.
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