CALGARY, Canada -- UFC president Dana White summed up Hector Lombard's first night in the Octagon pretty well.
"It's the most unfortunate thing about hype," White said. "When you have a lot of hype behind you and you don't back it up, it goes away real quick."
Following two slow, awkward fights on the UFC 149 main card, the feeling at Scotiabank Saddledome headed into the co-main event Saturday was an unmistakable “at least the next one can’t disappoint.”
Unfortunately, Lombard’s debut ended up doing exactly that. It wasn’t just the fact he lost a split decision to Tim Boetsch; it was the way it happened.
It was uninspiring enough to prompt UFC commentator Joe Rogan to walk over to White and convey that it wasn’t what he had expected. Adding to the weird feel of the fight, the UFC didn’t even interview Boetsch after the win. White later said it was due to time constraints.
For a fighter who approaches interviews and the game itself with so much fire -- a guy who has the reputation of alienating sparring partners for going too hard -- Lombard’s performance Saturday lacked passion.
“As the card was going on, I thought, 'Thank God Boetsch and Lombard are coming out right now, because this is going to save the show,’” White said.
“It wasn’t the fight I expected at all. I don’t know if I was sickened by it. It just wasn’t what I thought it was going to be.”
To be fair, Lombard’s deal with the UFC came equipped with heavy expectations. The addition of a middleweight who hadn’t lost a fight since 2006 was big news in the mixed martial arts world.
Which is why it was demoralizing to see it develop as it did. The sellout Canadian crowd tried to rally more action out of Lombard during the second round with an encouraging cheer. Boos began prior to the final round and didn't cease until the round was complete.
What happened in the fight was an unfortunate pattern of Boetsch wisely moving in and out of the 5-foot-9 Lombard’s range and Lombard absolutely refusing to alter his game plan -- which appeared to be based on landing counter right hands.
The frustrating part was Lombard had success when he did decide to move forward. His speed advantage showed when he let his hands go, and he caught a big break in the second round when Boetsch broke two bones in his right foot while throwing a kick.
The trademark Lombard flurry everyone anticipated seeing in the Octagon never happened, though. Even Boetsch, who said he was happy with the way he executed his game plan, admitted he wasn’t sure why Lombard never pressed.
“I knew he had potential for a real explosive flurry,” Boetsch said. “I don’t know if conditioning was a factor. I felt the altitude; the air was thin. Maybe that played a part [in] why we didn’t see that huge flurry in him to get the kill.
“I was prepared for it, whatever he threw at me.”
Lombard (31-3) certainly will have opportunities to impress again. White was in no mood to announce fight matchups, but Boetsch expressed confidence Lombard will find success. He did allude, though, that his skill set wasn’t terribly difficult to prepare for.
“He has knockout power, but it’s at a very specific range,” Boetsch said. “If you find yourself in that range and stay there an amount of time, you’re going to get hurt. I knew that before this fight.”