Hector Lombard entered MMA as a decorated Cuban judoka. He dominated domestic competition, winning four national championships and qualifying for the Olympic team in 2000.
While Lombard has leaned on an aggressive power-punching assault for the majority of his storied MMA career, he has still shown flashes of takedown artistry and clinch grappling in the UFC.
It has been reported that Lombard has been working with the Allstars Training Center in Sweden. Although they are known for strikers like Alexander Gustaffson, Allstars fighters stand out among European teams for sturdy wrestling and a solid rate of takedown attempts. More vulnerable than ever, we could see a strategic shift from the aging veteran.
Ahead of his UFC Fight Night 137 bout with Thales Leites, let’s reflect on Hector Lombard’s finer moments as a wrestler and judoka from the past few years.
The Takedowns of Hector Lombard
WARNING: There is proper judo terminology for many of these maneuvers. If you feel strongly about it, let me know and I will happily add that name as well.
Ragdolling Jake Shields
This is why you’re here.
We did not see a whiff of offensive wrestling or judo from Hector Lombard for about two years until he met Jake Shields. He must have been saving it all up.
While Shields is an accomplished and effective grappler, he’s never been especially efficient with his efforts in the clinch or on shots. When it comes to defending takedowns, he is surprisingly frail looking for a former college wrestler. One explanation is that he has always wanted the fight on the grounds by any terms, and did not bother to train defending takedowns.
Regardless of the explanation, Shields’ vulnerability has led to beautiful moments like this:
Against Lombard, Shields quickly found himself short on answers. He attempted to negate the Cuban’s thudding blitzes by retreating and clinching. Jake Shields is perfectly content to spend a full three rounds jockeying for position on the cage, see his fight with Tyron Woodley.
But because he was resistant to being moved around by Lombard, it was comically easy for him to be caught with trips and sweeps.
In this example, Shields is holding a loose overhook and collar tie, but his feet are planted, attempting to drive forward or circle Lombard’s back to the cage. When Hector redirects by pushing the elbow with his left hand, he blocks with his right foot.
Judging by the trajectory of that foot sweep, Jake was resisting with all of his might.
We were treated to an even more aesthetic maneuver in the second round. At this point, it becomes harder to argue “Shields wanted to be taken down!”, considering Lombard had zero trouble controlling him.
Standing straight up, square, and holding a loose collar tie once again, Shields is nailed with a sharp knee to the body. To avoid further damage, Shields turns his stance sideways. No really, he did!
Instantly, Lombard pushed the hips with his underhook to the left, the chest with his free hand to the right, and used an outside trip to sweep out Shields’ feet from underneath him.
Okay, one more then we can stop piling on poor Jake Shields.
A new theory on this fight might be that Hector Lombard is incredibly dangerous from underhooks, and Shields insisted on overhooking and standing right in front of him.
Us laymen call this one a hip toss.
If you observe Lombard’s feet before the throw, it looks like he is either stutter stepping, or playing with resistance in the clinch to get Shields to push forward. When he gets the desired reaction, he hits the turn, pulls with his underhook, and drops his hips for Shields to fall over, all in one motion.
Outside a decent guillotine attempt by Jake Shields, this was the Hector Lombard judo spectacular.
Wrestling Tim Boetsch
Hector Lombard’s UFC debut was a great disappointment at the time. As one of the first major Bellator champions to cross over into the UFC, there was a lot of pressure from fans of both organizations.
There was plenty of standing around doing nothing, as it was a Hector Lombard fight. But in spurts, Lombard showed some encouraging skills in close range.
Boestch was a Divison 1 wrestler for Pennsylvania’s Lock Haven University, where he reportedly filled in at heavyweight to support his team. At his peak in MMA, he was known for physicality, heavy hands, and “the barbarian b**ch toss“.
It was Lombard who dominated their wrestling exchanges. His cement hips and heavy sprawl left Boetsch extended and flat on several single legs. When they tied up in the clinch, Lombard surprised many by opting for shot entries rather than his acclaimed trips or throws.
On both attempts, Lombard controlled Boetsch with an underhook, using his free hand to post on the defending arm before quickly changing levels. There is technique to locking hands and lifting on doubles, but it doesn’t hurt to have freaky Martian strength.
Chaining Attacks on Josh Burkman
This fight was really about Lombard’s feints and parries on the feet, but there was one interesting wrestling sequence in the third round.
The inside trip to double leg is a tried and true takedown entry. What’s unique here is that Lombard attacked while breaking Burkman’s post on one side, and shucking off the arm as he broke the overhook on the other.
It’s not odd to hit an inside trip off an overhook, and to lose that tie in favor of attacking the legs. But it takes an explosive individual to do both simultaneously.
Clearly, it was not a perfect entry, as Burkman recovered to his feet, but it did open up the bodylock and a subsequent takedown.
As you may have heard, recently un-retired Johny Hendricks won two NCAA Division 1 titles for Oklahoma State. His wrestling translated fairly well to MMA, even MMA wrestling savant Georges St. Pierre had his hands full.
Given his credentials and insane balance, Hendricks is not an easy man to take down.
But Hector Lombard has some of the best timing in MMA (except for when he hit Dollaway after the bell).
Lombard and his team clearly did their homework. Studying Johny’s prefered combinations, Lombard was able to anticipate subsequent kicks. In the first takedown shown, Lombard is reaching as soon as he sees that lead right hook thrown in front of him.
The second catch is much more impressive. Lombard holds Johny’s now middleweight leg, grabs the over tie and trips out his base leg.
Catching the Clinch
Against Hendricks, and later Anthony Smith, Hector did some nice work countering aggressive attacks with duck-unders.
When Lombard saw Hendricks loading up, he rolled under the rear hand and circled to rear standing. In the first clip it actually was a rear hand, in the second he moves reactively to a kick instead, and still catches the same position.
The aesthetics of his back clinching on Anthony Smith are of a higher quality, albeit much sloppier technically.
This first exchange is absolutely nutty. Off the over tie Lombard throws a full power rear elbow and ends up completely off balance, with both feet in front of Smith. But Smith also turns, having eaten the elbow, and Lombard catches the seatbelt. Ultimately Anthony recovers well and is able to get the angle for his whizzer.
Efficacy vs. Thales Leites
The seed is there for Hector Lombard to reinvent himself as a grappling-first fighter. Thales Leites is a well-rounded fighter and a phenomenal grappler, but he is undoubtedly a top player. It wouldn’t be a bad strategy to plant him on his back.
Hector Lombard’s takedowns often grant him side control, where it is much more difficult to stand back up or offer effective offense. Even Leites would be compromised.
Leites has been rear-hand happy in the past, it will be interesting to see if Lombard gets back to his duck-under game. Against a seasoned Hendricks and gigantic Smith, it was a bit much to ask to use those positions for takedowns.
But against Leites it’s not out of the question. With a strong bodylock from the back clinch Lombard could pull, turn and sweep out the back foot. As a human fire-hydrant, the option is always there for the traditional collegiate mat return, which yields the bonus option of slamming Leites on his head. There is no doubt Hector has choices from this position, and he knows how to get there.
UFC Fight Night 137
As a fan of his style, I am optimistic Hector will see reason and adapt his approach to lean on his takedown and grappling game. But he is a man of immense pride and a noteworthy ego, it would not be a surprise for him to prioritize the knockout once again.
And a special apology to Jake Shields, who does not deserve to be raked over the coals like this.
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