The month of July has been a showcase for top-level middleweights. Champions and contenders alike have competed under the spotlight and the outcomes of their battles have changed the hierarchy of the division's upper tier.
With the weight class still looking for the next clear cut contender to Anderson Silva's crown, the month's final matchup of elite middleweights between Hector Lombard and Tim Boetsch at UFC 149 on Saturday may tip the balance.
While his opponent is entrenched with title talk and generating a buzz throughout the MMA community, Boetsch plans to spoil the party. He has won three consecutive bouts since dropping to middleweight and believes he is the next contender to the 185-pound throne. After he's finished with Lombard, Boetsch believes no questions will remain.
"I absolutely feel I'm a contender in this division," Boetsch told Bleacher Report. "When I fought Yushin Okami he was coming off a title shot against Anderson Silva. He didn't win that fight but he was certainly ranked right there at the top of the weight class. He's a tough fighter, highly skilled, and I think he will beat most of the other guys in our division. After defeating Okami I feel it catapulted me to the top.
"I think a win over Okami got me close and by defeating Hector I'll be knocking on the door. This is a huge fight. It's the biggest fight of my life and certainly the most important one I've had to date. This is the one that will put me one step away from becoming a champion.
"I honestly feel like I'm making my run for the championship. This weight class feels great and I'm a better fighter than I've ever been in the past. I'm still working, learning new stuff everyday and continuing to improve. But with that being said, I feel like I can beat anyone in the division right now. I'm very excited about this upcoming fight. Hector has a huge win streak going and he's a former Bellator world champion. I'm beating my first world champion this weekend."
When the UFC signed Lombard there was an immediate emphasis put on his fast track to title contention. The former Bellator middleweight champion has been a wrecking ball as he has steamrolled over his opposition.
Even with this being the case, Boetsch is in the majority who feels Lombard hasn't faced the caliber of opponent the UFC roster represents and "The Barbarian" is happy to welcome him into the lion's den.
"I'm really looking forward to being that first guy to fight him in the UFC," Boetsch said. "I'd really like to be the guy who ends that big win streak for him. I've fought guys with win streaks in the past and I'm not intimidated by those type of numbers. He's done his job well by knocking guys out in his previous fights. He moves forward, hits hard, and that's what he is good at. But I'm good at a lot of things too and plan on being the dominant fighter on Saturday night.
"He definitely hasn't faced the quality of opponent that we have in the UFC. Our middleweight division is much deeper than Bellator's was. But Hector is obviously a very tough guy. You don't win 25 fights in a row by accident. He's legit and he's going to come over here in his big test and honestly he's not going to beat me.
"He's not going to pass the test I'm going to give him. But he'll certainly have success down the road because that is just the type of fighter he is. Lombard will be able to knock a lot of guys out over here and impose his will. But I'm not that guy and he's not going to come over to the UFC and get his first win over me.
"I know my wrestling is much better than Hector's and I'll be able to use that to my advantage. With that being said, I want to give him his first knockout and I know I can do it. I hit just as hard as hard as he does and he will find that out very quickly in this fight."
Throughout his career, Lombard has been able to build a Mike Tyson-esque mystique. He has been able to create the type of intimidation level where he's been able to mentally defeat opponents before they ever step into the cage with him. He will not find Boetsch standing in that category. The veteran fighter is beyond excited for the opportunity.
"He is a scary guy to look at," Boetsch said. "If you ran into him in a dark alley somewhere you would probably be intimidated by him. I think a lot of fighters are like that. They hear about his 25 wins in a row and they think he's unstoppable. They see him across the cage glaring at them, all muscled up, but that doesn't work on me.
"None of those things matter. In fact, some of the toughest guys I know are skinny little guys who you would never think could ever fight. You wouldn't be afraid to start trouble with them but then you'd be picking yourself up off the floor. Looks are very deceiving in the fight game. I understand that very well and while Hector looks scary, I'm not intimidated by him in the slightest. I think it's played a huge factor in a lot of his fights but it won't factor into this one at all.
"I'm excited for this fight and I'm bringing fireworks. This is going to be an explosive fight from start to finish. He's going to come out trying to take my head off and I'm going to be returning the favor. I'm looking to finish this fight and I'm looking to take Hector out."
And when he says finish the fight, he means it.
"I'm going to finish him. This will not go to the judge's decision," Boestch said. "I'm going to wear him down and then take his head off."