Many well-informed MMA fans likely know of the prominent middleweight from Bellator Fighting Championships named Hector Lombard. If you don't know Hector Lombard, you probably should.
Lombard was the winner from Bellator's first season, claiming the 185-pound title after defeating Jared Hess in the season finale. Lombard has compiled a record of 24-2-1, with his only losses coming to Armenian sensation Gegard Mousasi and Japanese ace Akihiro Gono.
Yet, there are eight men that believe they have what it takes to dethrone Bellator's at 185 pounds. Here's a look at the divisions best and brightest, and who has the inside line to battle Lombard for his title.
Bryan "The Beast" Baker
Baker is a tough veteran that boasts an impressive 11-1 record, with the majority of his wins coming via TKO. He holds wins over UFC vets Rory Singer and Jesse Forbes, and fought well during his stint in the WEC, with his only loss coming via decision to now-UFC top middleweight Chael Sonnen.
Baker's grit and athleticism make him a tough fight for anyone at middleweight in this tournament.
Sean "The Destroyer" Loeffler
To the average knowledgeable MMA fan, the name Sean Loeffler doesn't mean much. However, Loeffler will put his skills on display during the Bellator's second season this April.
Mainly a submission fighter, Loeffler has been competing in MMA since 2000, putting together an impressive 18-4 record. His wins have come over a few lesser known fighters, but Loeffler will surely have his chance at worldwide recognition this Spring.
Major is a young, hungry fighter that is still new to the MMA world. Only fighting in the sport professionally since 2007, Major has gotten out to a quick 6-1 start, with his only loss coming to TUF alumnus Jesse Taylor in 2007. He's gone 3-0 since, with one of those wins coming over the flamboyant Shonie Carter.
Major is also a member of the American Kickboxing Academy team that boasts UFC stalwarts such as Cain Velasquez, Josh Koscheck, and Jon Fitch to name a few.
Major is a serious threat to Lombard's title if he fights to his ability.
Schambari comes into this tournament as a unique individual who has gone through many hardships before settling in with an 11-1 record. Schambari suffered a very serious training injury, and when he succumbed to an allergic reaction from medication, he almost didn't live through the ordeal, saying in his own words, "[it] nearly killed me."
Against the advice of doctors, Schambari eventually got back into the ring and never looked back, pulling off four consecutive victories after his loss to fellow Season Two contender Bryan "The Beast" Baker.
If Schambari can build more momentum off of his recent victories, he could become hot enough to be a formidable opponent for anyone in the tournament, including current champion Hector Lombard.
McGivern was one of the recent additions onto Bellator's second season, and one to be excited about.
A veteran of the cage, McGivern has shown he can hang tough with some of the best fighters in the world, with bouts against Brock Larson, Joe Doerksen, and Dan Miller. Though McGivern hasn't fought in over two years, the opening fight should quickly roll off a little ring rust for the Miletich product.
It remains to be seen if McGivern can gain a win over tough competition, but the effort is always there for the 30-year-old scrapper.
Hess is the first season's runner up in Bellator, putting up a great fight against current champion Hector Lombard. However, after Lombard opened up a sizable gash over Hess' eye, the doctors stopped the bout in the fourth round giving Lombard the title, and driving Hess back to the drawing board.
With 10+ months to reflect on the loss, Hess is determined to fight his way back to earning that shot once again with Lombard, only with things going a little differently this time.