UFC 171 Preview: Jake Shields vs. Hector Lombard

Jake Shields (29-6-1 (1), 4-2 (1) UFC) vs. Hector Lombard (33-4-1 (1), 2-2 UFC)

Another welterweight bout that will be pivotal in potentially determining the next challenger for the UFC Welterweight Championship takes place on the main card as former Strikeforce & EliteXC Champion Jake Shields takes on former Bellator Middleweight Champion Hector Lombard. Shields is unbeaten in his last four fights as he has officially won two straight after scoring a decision win against Demian Maia in October. He is 3-2 with a no contest over his last five fights. Lombard will fight for the second time as a welterweight and is looking to build on a first-round knockout win he got against Nate Marquardt at UFC 166 in October. Lombard is 2-2 in four fights since joining the UFC roster.

Fight Breakdown- Jake Shields is looking to earn his second shot at the UFC Welterweight Championship as he enters Saturday night on a four-fight unbeaten streak. He came into the UFC as a former Strikeforce and EliteXC Champion, and with a ton of momentum as he had won 14 straight fights prior to his UFC signing. Before he entered the UFC, he had scored wins over Dan Henderson, Yushin Okami, Carlos Condit, Paul Daley and Robbie Lawler, among others, and his signing was met with a lot of expectations and a title shot was waiting for him. He had to get through a bout with Martin Kampmann first, and they fought in Shields’ UFC debut at UFC 121 in October 2010. Shields won a rather ugly fight, but it was enough to get him a title shot. He challenged Georges St. Pierre for the UFC Welterweight Championship at UFC 129 in April 2011. Shields came up on the losing end, much like everyone did against GSP, but he went right back to work in looking for another title shot. He lost his next bout to Jake Ellenberger, but got back into the win column by defeating Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 144 in February 2012. He flirted with middleweight, defeating Ed Herman at UFC 150, but that was turned into a no contest after a failed drug test for marijuana. He went back to 170 pounds and has scored wins over Tyron Woodley and Demian Maia to get back into title contention.

Much like Shields, Hector Lombard entered the UFC on a long unbeaten streak and was expected to immediately contend for a title with even just one win inside the Octagon. Lombard was unbeaten in 25 straight fights, including 20 straight wins, and was the reigning Bellator Middleweight Champion when he made the jump to sign with the UFC. Prior to his UFC signing, he had defeated fighters such as James Te Huna, Jesse Taylor and Alexander Shlemenko. He was going to debut in a main event on FOX against Brian Stann, but a Stann injury led to Lombard making his debut at UFC 149 in July 2012 against Tim Boetsch. A win may have gotten Lombard a title shot, but that never came to fruition as Lombard delivered a flat performance that was hampered by an injury and dropped a decision to Boetsch. Not only did that end his unbeaten streak, it ensured that Lombard would need another impressive streak to get a title shot. Lombard got back into the win column with a first-round knockout of Rousimar Palhares in December 2012, but dropped his next fight when Yushin Okami defeated him by split decision in March 2013. After two losses in his first three UFC bouts, Lombard was looking like a highly-paid bust and far away from title contention. He decided to make the drop to 170 pounds, and a first-round destruction of Nate Marquardt at UFC 166 in October has given Lombard new life in a new division, and he has his sights set on getting back into title contention.

Lombard is a dangerous fighter on the feet and has vicious knockout power, and he displayed that power in his first welterweight bout. With his stature and frame, his power probably translates better at 170 pounds than it did at 185 pounds, and that makes him one of the most dangerous fighters in the new welterweight division. Shields does have a solid chin, but he did get finished by Jake Ellenberger, and Lombard has as much, if not more, power than Ellenberger does. He has dangerous hooks and is very good at finishing opponents when he has them hurt. Shields needs to keep Lombard from taking the center of the Octagon and stalking him with power punches, so he should look to make this a battle in the clinch. Shields is an expert grappler who doesn’t have the most crowd-pleasing style, but he is very effective at what he does. He may have trouble taking Lombard down though as Lombard is an expert judoka and very tough to get on the mat. Lombard was taken down by Yushin Okami, but Okami was way bigger than Lombard, and Lombard’s size and frame and upper body strength works better as a welterweight, and he will have the strength edge over Shields.

If Shields can get this fight to the mat, and that is a big if, he has an excellent top game and very solid ground control. He doesn’t do anything flashy, but he scores points on the ground, and if an opening is there, Shields will take it and look for the submission. He does have ten submission wins. Lombard, though, has never been finished, and with his judo background and a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu of his own, he should be able to create scrambles to get back to the feet. However, it is tough to envision this fight going to the ground as it could end very quickly. If Shields is unable to initiate the clinch within the first minute, Lombard is going to be ready to tee off. Shields has basic, rudimentary striking skills, and he is not someone to fear on the feet. Lombard is going to love that and look to blitz early. He is going to test the chin of Shields and see if it holds up. This fight will either end quickly with a Lombard win, or Shields by decision if he is able to implement his gameplan of neutralizing his opponent. Lombard wants to make a statement, and another big knockout win of a former title contender will do just that. He takes this with a quick knockout win.

Why It Matters- This also has title implications in the welterweight division. While Shields doesn’t have the most exciting fights, you can’t argue against his three straight wins at 170 pounds and defeats of Demian Maia and Tyron Woodley don’t mean anything. A win over Lombard would give him the longest UFC win streak of anyone not named Matt Brown at welterweight, and he could certainly make the case of getting the next title shot. A quick win for Lombard would keep his name in the mix, and depending on how the other dominoes fall, it could help him stand out. Even if he wins, he is still likely one or two more wins away from fighting for the title. A win could set him up for a fight with someone like Rory MacDonald or the winner of the Jake Ellenberger/Tarec Saffiedine fight, but a loss would further cement Lombard as a fighter that did his best outside of the UFC, and that maybe he wasn’t worth the big investment taken on him. Both men need the win if they ever want to sniff that title opportunity again, so this is a huge fight for both.

Prediction- Lombard

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