Tim Boetsch: the comeback kid?
This weekend at UFC 149 is set up to be the first fight in the Hector Lombard era in UFC. On a remarkable win streak, Lombard has been considered a top-tier fighter in the middleweight division for a while, despite his status as champion in Bellator, because of his penchant for devastating victories. He competed in the 2000 Olympics in Judo and seemingly has been fast-tracked for a title shot ever since he signed his UFC contract. He’s on a 20-fight win streak and has only gone to the judges’ scorecards four times in that span. A wrecking ball in wait, Lombard is being groomed for a title shot because he presents an interesting challenge to Anderson Silva.
One thing is standing in the way of that fight: Tim “The Barbarian” Boetsch.
If Lombard isn’t careful, he could fall victim to the one thing Boetsch has done shockingly well in his past couple of fights: pull off a Hail Mary victory.
Meet Tim Boetsch
Boetsch was a mediocre light heavyweight. Not big enough to really handle himself well, Boetsch made the drop to middleweight and has found a substantial amount of success in a more fitting weight class. Much like Chael Sonnen, Michael Bisping and Brian Stann, Boetsch had an easy time cutting weight to 205 pounds. Pushing the cut to 185 has given him a much more dramatic physical edge.
Just look at the timeline. Boetsch was simply outclassed at 205. It was evident in his November 2010 fight against Phil Davis, perhaps the biggest of the light heavyweight contenders, that 205 wasn’t the best weight for him. Davis may have invented his “Mr. Wonderful” submission against Boetsch, but the one thing that was evident was that Boetsch was going to be outsized in the division fairly easily.
After that fight, Boetsch dropped to middleweight and has looked like an elite fighter who is taking full advantage of his talents.
Lombard on notice
Boetsch and his berserker frenzy when the chips are down have felled men with better MMA pedigrees than Lombard.
He came back after being thoroughly handled by Yushin Okami for 10 minutes, and being owned by Nick Ring for five, proving in each fight that when he knows he’s losing he’ll go for broke. Against Ring, he turned it on earlier, of course, and that fight gets forgotten because of the miraculous nature of his victory over Okami. Okami had only been stopped by Anderson Silva prior to that fight and is known for his ability to engage in wars. That Boetsch came out and brutally knocked him out says something that Lombard can’t overlook. Boetsch will be in this fight until the end unless Lombard stops him.
Lombard hasn’t faced a lot of premier talent during his epic win streak, and Boetsch is likely the best fighter he’s faced to this point. Over the years, because of the division’s lack of depth, coupled with the fact that the UFC and Zuffa control nearly every top middleweight in the world, Lombard has not had the opportunity to test his metaphorical ceiling. We can only figure out so much about a fighter when his level of competition isn’t the highest. It’s the same quandary we have with Luke Rockhold: We presume he’s good, and we knowledgeably can call him among the elite of the division, but he doesn’t quite have the resume to match.
Boetsch represents a true test for Lombard. Until the final horn blows Saturday night, Lombard needs to be on top of his game. If not, Lombard very well could be the next man to fold under Boetsch’s pressure.