(While all those rubber-neckers and looky-loos stand slack-jawed starin’, the real men have the nuts to walk away. / Photo via Getty)
By Adam Martin
Don’t call it a comeback.
At UFC 166 this past weekend, Hector Lombard — he of the disappointing 1-2 Octagon record in his first year with the organization — made his 170-pound debut after nine years as a middleweight, and it was a good one, as he absolutely obliterated former Strikeforce welterweight champion Nate Marquardt with brutal left hooks in under two minutes to save his job with the UFC.
According to Lombard, the UFC told him “take it or leave it” in regards to a potential drop to 170, meaning he could either make the move down to welterweight or get his walking papers after putting together a losing record as a UFC middleweight.
After all, the former Bellator middleweight champion was a huge signing for the UFC last summer, but after losing two disappointing split decisions to Tim Boetsch and Yushin Okami (with a KO win over Rousimar Palhares sandwiched in between), it was clear that “Lightning” was too small to compete with the bigger 185-pounders in the Octagon.
So Dana White and Joe Silva told Lombard to make the cut to 170, and if last Saturday night in Houston was any indication, this man is going to be an absolute force to be reckoned with in the UFC welterweight division.
In fact, I would even go as far as to say he’s an instant title contender.
Sure, a win over Marquardt these days doesn’t mean as much as it used to. After all, “The Great” has gone 0-3 in 2013, including a previous KO loss to Jake Ellenberger and a decision loss to Tarec Saffiedine. But still, he’s a former Pancrase/Strikeforce champion, a former top-three ranked middleweight, and a huge name in the sport.
So while a KO win over Marquardt in 2013 isn’t as special as it may have been three years ago — hell, even one year ago, when he was wrecking Tyron Woodley’s brains in Strikeforce — it’s still a good win on paper, and it’s the type of victory that will put Lombard on the fast track to a title shot at 170 pounds, if mostly because of his combination of muscles and hefty price tag.