After several stops on a lengthy international tour, middleweight Hector Lombard finally brings his talents to the UFC this weekend. Along with him comes a 25-fight unbeaten stretch, which amazingly, isn't even the longest streak of anyone inhabiting the UFC 149 card. That honor goes to Renan Barao, the Brazilian bantamweight dynamo who hasn't lost in his last 29 bouts dating back to his career debut fight in 2005.
Lombard -- Cuban-born, Australian-transplanted, and now American-trained -- has been the object of debate in MMA circles for several years. As far back as 2007, when his streak stood at a modest five fights, he has been linked to the UFC. At that time, visa issues extinguished any hope of bringing him to the octagon, and since then he's been a sort of mercenary, constructing a brilliant record that seemed to raise as many questions as it answered.
On Lombard's success, there have been two schools of thought. One has said that anyone capable of a 25-fight unbeaten streak no matter the opponents is a legitimate MMA powerhouse. The other questioned if he had ever been challenged by anyone resembling anything close to a top-level fighter.
To his credit, Lombard knows the critics are still present.
"I feel that after Saturday night, you guys are going to see what I'm all about," he said at Thursday's UFC 149 press conference. "I'm really looking forward to Saturday night to show you guys what I can do in the cage."
Yet in many ways, he's already shown us. An examination of Lombard's streak shows a fair mix of grizzled veterans, young prospects and yes, an occasional date with an overmatched opponent.
Most recently, Lombard competed for Bellator, where he was its middleweight champion with an 8-0 record and 7 finishes. During that time, he beat a fairly credible group of opponents, including Trevor Prangley, Falaniko Vitale and Alexander Shlemenko.
A look at his last five fights illustrate a strong opponent level. During that time, he faced Prangley, Jesse Taylor, Vitale, Joe Doerksen and Shlemenko. At the time they faced Lombard, they had a combined record of 166-43-1 for a career win percentage of .743. By comparison, six of the fighters on UFC 149 can't match that number.
Lombard's opponent, Tim Boetsch, has a career win percentage of .789, just a shade higher than his previous fights.
While many point to the UFC as having the top talent around, Lombard during his streak has beaten a slew of fighters who either before or after facing him, have competed in the UFC. In total, he's faced nine men who can claim octagon experience, and he's never lost. He beat Prangley, Taylor, Vitale, Doerksen, Jay Silva, Kalib Starnes, Brian Ebersole and James Te Huna, all by finish (four knockouts, four submissions). Meanwhile Kyle Noke is the only one to survive him during this long streak, fighting him to a draw back in 2007.
His nine UFC opponents are just one less than Boetsch. The "Barbarian" has fought nine times in the UFC, and his 10th opponent with UFC experience, Vladimir Matyushenko, came in a fight when both were in the IFL. During that time, Boetsch is 6-4 against that experience level, with losses to Matyushenko, Matt Hamill, Jason Brilz and Phil Davis. Meanwhile, his wins are over David Heath, Michael Patt, Todd Brown, Kendall Grove, Nick Ring and most recently, Yushin Okami. As you probably noticed, four of the fighters he beat are already out of the UFC.
During his streak, Lombard has 15 knockouts and four submissions. Thirteen of his fights haven't made it out of the first round. Seven of them took less than two minutes.
Aside from the draw to Noke, he hasn't had any blips on his record. He hasn't even had to squeak by in a split-decision. It's been a succession of beatings on a march to the UFC.
The man who reigns over Lombard's division, Anderson Silva, once lost to a middling Japanese fighter named Daiju Takase, who has a career record of 10-13-2. Lombard later knocked out Takase, by the way. So what does this all prove? Simply that the past is not often a great predictor of future events.
Lombard's opponent caliber has not been top 10 for sure, but he never got trapped by unfamiliar fighter, he never got caught looking past a smaller name. He has also shown himself capable of overwhelming opponents that have already fought where Boetsch is standing. You may not be convinced that Lombard has the goods to survive among the UFC's best, but faced with the level of available opposition outside the UFC, he did what he was supposed to do: he crushed them.