UFC 171: Did Hector Lombard Do Enough to Earn a Title Shot?

James MacDonaldFeatured ColumnistMarch 16, 2014

Hector Lombard lands a punch on Jake Shields during a UFC 171 mixed martial arts welterweight bout, Saturday, March. 15, 2014, in Dallas. Lombard won by decision. (AP Photo/Matt Strasen)
Matt Strasen/Associated Press

With Johny Hendricks vs. Robbie Lawler and Carlos Condit vs. Tyron Woodley gobbling up most of the column inches post UFC 171, Hector Lombard’s dominant win over Jake Shields has seemingly flown under the radar.

The Cuban imposed his will on the former Strikeforce middleweight champion from start to finish, at times tossing him around like a blow-up doll. For a contest that looked competitive on paper, it was shockingly one-sided.

Despite him thoroughly outclassing one of the welterweight division’s top contenders, we were still left wondering whether Lombard had earned the first shot at Hendricks’ title.

The former Olympic judoka is something of an enigma. He at times looks unstoppable, comfortably living up to his Tyson-esque reputation. Other times, he appears listless, plodding forward aimlessly with inexplicable periods of inactivity.

Lombard is a walking contradiction, whose style is equal parts infuriating and exhilarating. His UFC 171 performance was a perfect demonstration of both extremes.

Throughout the bout, Joe Rogan took pains to point out that fatigue was likely responsible for Lombard’s occasional placidity. However, there was little evidence to suggest that the Cuban was struggling physically.

Rather, he appeared overly cautious, perhaps eager to protect the lead he had built up on the scorecards. Whenever the fight hit the ground, he willingly surrendered dominant positions in order to rest in Shields’ closed guard.

On the feet, he was either mauling his foe or engaging him in a staring contest. It was a strange performance all round.

Lombard’s lack of urgency against an outmatched opponent is unlikely to endear him to UFC president Dana White. With the 170-pound division wide open since Georges St-Pierre’s departure, we were looking for a contender to emerge from the pack.

Woodley looked impressive in his win over Condit, but the result was arguably marred by the fact that the bout ended due to injury in the second round.

Additionally, with Woodley having recently lost to Shields, Lombard’s victory at UFC 171 may function as something of a tiebreaker between the pair.

Strangely, Nick Diaz’s name has been thrown into the mix by some. Stockton’s favourite son has been unusually media-friendly over the past couple of days, making clear to anyone who will listen that he’s ready to fight.

However, it’s hard to imagine even the UFC promoting a title fight with someone who is on a two-fight losing streak and hasn’t competed in more than a year.

So despite an uneven performance, Lombard would appear to be the logical choice for Hendricks’ first title defence. Then again, I gave up on trying to second-guess the UFC matchmakers a long time ago.