With NFL free agency in full swing and change in the air, Mixed Martial Arts also has a distinctive feel of change brewing. A few marquee fighters are set to hit the open market with Bellator stars Eddie Alvarez and Hector Lombard being among the biggest names that may be looking for a new organization to call home.
Lombard remains one of the biggest names out there to not sign with the UFC and it is hard to imagine the world's largest MMA promotion not making an effort to sign the dynamic middleweight.
With his hard-charging, exciting style Hector Lombard would make a great addition to the roster. With a record of 31-2-1 (1 NC), he could just be a contender.
Lombard sports a win streak that extends back to 2006, but a trip to the UFC would make extending that win streak exponentially tougher to continue. It will be interesting to see exactly who would welcome him to the UFC and where he really stands in the middleweight division.
Here are ten possibilities for his UFC debut.
As Mike Goldberg would say, these two are virtually identical.
At 5'9", Lombard is one of the few middleweights built much like the 5'8" Palhares. Palhares has gained momentum of late and is currently scheduled to take on Alan Belcher at UFC on Fox 3.
Should Palhares get past Belcher he will be on a four-fight win streak and ready to step up in competition.
Palhares has flashed great skills and has earned a reputation as a finisher with a nasty submission game. His only two losses in the organization were his two toughest opponents (Nate Marquardt and Dan Henderson) so the knock on Palhares is the same as the knock on Lombard: They haven't beat elite talent.
This fight would not only bring the fireworks that the fans love so much, it would definitively show who is a true contender in the middleweight division.
Michael Bisping may be coming off a loss, but he has proved he is still a threat in the middleweight division.
While the UFC doesn't generally put someone who just lost a fight against someone who just won a fight, this fight just makes too much sense not to be considered. The thought of Bisping's technical kickboxing against the brutal knockout power of Lombard's boxing should have any fight fan excited.
Bisping is currently without many options for his next fight after a decision loss to Chael Sonnen where Bisping put in a solid effort against the elite of the division.
The winner of this match would find themselves right in the middle of the title picture and could very well find their pockets lined with a very nice "Fight of the Night" or "Knockout of the Night" bonus money.
Chris Weidman is easily the hottest prospect in the middleweight division and after a unanimous decision victory over Demian Maia on national television, there would be plenty of hype behind this fight.
For all that Weidman has shown in his first four UFC fights, his stand up remains in question. Weidman was able to consistently beat Demian Maia to the punch on the feet, but Lombard is on a whole different level when it comes to striking.
Should Weidman get past Lombard, he would show he can get past dynamic strikers and advance himself even farther up the 185-pound ladder.
If Lombard can put away Weidman, he would show he definitely belongs in the UFC and immediately become a part of the title picture.
After an amazing comeback victory against Yushin Okami at UFC 144 (all Joe Rogan puffery aside), Tim Boetsch now finds himself ready to take a step up in competition.
The only problem is, outside of Michael Bisping, most top middleweights are already booked. Depending upon the timing of Lombard's entrance into the organization, Boetsch could be just the guy for Lombard to make his debut.
A former light heavyweight, Boetsch is a massive middleweight and Lombard has the size to match him. Two huge middleweights trading bombs? Sounds like a recipe for a great debut to me and a way to show us where both of these guys stand.
After Brian Stann's loss to Chael Sonnen, it's clear that Stann is a long way from being able to compete against fighters who can utilize their strength to control him on the mat.
Sonnen was continually able to drag Stann down and work his ground and pound before Stann finally succumbed to a choke.
While Lombard probably possesses the strength advantage over Stann, don't expect him to drag him to the ground. Lombard loves to stand and outbox his opponents so this fight would give us an idea of who the better knockout artist truly is and would be a nice slugfest to watch.
Who better to test if Lombard is an overrated champion than Jake Shields?
After being touted as one of the best champions to be signed to the UFC and a true threat to Georges St. Pierre's title, the former Strikeforce middleweight champion would be a great first test for the current Bellator middleweight champion.
An elite grappler, Shields would present some very interesting challenges for Lombard and vice versa.
Shields hasn't fought at middleweight since leaving Strikeforce, but with a 2-2 record in the UFC maybe it is time to make the jump up in weight to set up this classic striker versus grappler matchup.
This one all depends on how the UFC wants to handle Lombard.
If they are interested in feeding him some "easy" fights to build up his name before throwing him in the fire against the division's elite, this may be the perfect matchup.
Leben is currently serving a one-year suspension for testing positive for OxyContin and it's unclear what his future in the UFC will look like.
Leben is the perfect gatekeeper for the middleweight division and could either end up providing some nice clips in Hector Lombard's highlight reel or derailing his hype train. Leben is no stranger to doing both and it would be a fitting debut for Lombard if the UFC wants to test him before giving him a more difficult challenge.
Should the UFC go the exact opposite route and choose to test Lombard early, Munoz may be the best choice.
Currently out of action due to an injury that forced him out of a No. 1 contender bout at UFC on Fox 2, Munoz could very easily be fighting for the title this summer. When Munoz is healed up he will be looking for a fight to get right back to the title and Lombard would provide a stern test.
Always known for his superior wrestling and ground and pound, it would be interesting to see how Munoz would deal with the strength and power of Lombard.
Who lands the first punch?
That would be what decides the winner of this bout.
Belfort's impressive hand speed and explosiveness is hard to top, but Lombard's vicious boxing attack may just be the thing to do it.
Belfort has made it clear that he strongly desires a rematch with Anderson Silva. After Silva's memorable front-kick KO, the number one concern that Belfort must address before getting that rematch is his chin.
If Belfort can get past Wanderlei Silva in their upcoming summer matchup and survive the power of Hector Lombard, he would be making a case that his chin is just fine.
It is a champion versus champion super-fight or a bloodbath waiting to happen?
Fans of Bellator have wondered aloud how Lombard would fare in a bout against The Spider, but with the competition that Lombard faces it remains difficult to gauge if he is simply a can crusher or a legitimate threat in his division.
The answer may lie somewhere between those two extremes but we'll never know unless we find out.
Lombard's well-rounded game and explosive power present an interesting challenge, but landing power shots on Silva is easier said than done and has rarely been done.
An immediate matchup with the champion is unlikely as Dana White tends to make fighters from outside of the organization prove themselves before giving them blockbuster fights.