At 34, Cuban striker Hector Lombard needed to make a statement at UFC 149 that he's a legit challenger to Anderson Silva's middleweight throne, but all he did was prove that stepping into a Bellator cage is nothing compared to stepping in the Octagon.
In Over His Head?
Boetsch was the first top-ten middleweight that Lombard has ever been matched up against, and the Cuban's performance on July 21 at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, didn't do much to quiet critics who say he was just another second-tier fighter who beat up on B-caliber talent throughout his career.
Lombard came into the fight with 20 consecutive victories and 31 wins in 34 fights, but most of those victories came against unassuming opponents on the independent circuit and the B- or lower-level competition at Bellator FC. Boetsch headed into the bout with a 15-4 record, including three straight victories.
UFC fighters Joe Lauzon and George Roop loved Lombard's walkout tunes, as the former tweeted "Can't be touched, can't be stopped, can't be rocked, can't be shook!" Sick entrance music for Hector Lombard! #UFC149 #UFC." Roop tweeted "Lombard comes out super gangster to roy jones jr can't be stopped I wanna kick someone in the head #ufc149."
That was where the love-fest ended.
Lombard Stands Flat-Footed
Lombard was oddly patient in the opening round, a far cry from the fast starts and brutal endings of his fighting past. He stood flat-footed, patiently waiting for an opening to arise. But by mid-fight, it was clear that standing in against top-ten competition in the UFC is a lot more difficult than matching up against the has-beens that Lombard was used to.
Previously, Lombard had beaten UFC outcasts like Kalib Starnes and Falaniko Vitale, and athletes creeping up on their 40th birthday like Trevor Prangley. On paper, Boetsch was the toughest test of Lombard's career.
Much Bigger Fish In the UFC Pond
"This is a different pond, with much bigger fish," Boetsch said before the fight in a Yahoo! report. " … There's a much deeper talent pool. The talent level is higher across the board. You don't get easy fights in the UFC."
Boetsch was absolutely right. Even with Lombard's loss, the middleweight division is still up for grabs. Anderson Silva is a cut (or two) above the rest of the 185-pound contenders, and the rest of the top ten is pretty evenly-matched.
Since Chael Sonnen just recently got his second shot at Silva and lost, and being that Luke Rockhold is tied into a contract with Strikeforce, the rest of the middleweight top ten is a true toss-up.
The remainder of 2012 and early-2013 may see Chris Weidman, Alan Belcher, Michael Bisping and Brian Stann grappling for position for the No. 1 contender spot, with Vitor Belfort and Rich Franklin serving as the "dark horses" in the race as they reach their late-30s.
Eric Holden is a lifelong UFC fan and supporter of the sport of mixed martial arts. Follow him on Twitter @ericholden.
Sourceswww.sherdog.com, Sherdog, fighter stats www.twitter.com, Twitter, fighter tweets