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Hector Lombard is in a good mood. He's laughing while getting his car washed, joking about how his weather in south Florida is better than that of his interviewer's in New York. It's not what you would usually expect from someone who has to cut to 170 pounds for the second time after fighting most of his career as a middleweight, but given the result of that first welterweight bout against Nate Marquardt last October, it explains his good humor a little better.
"To be honest, I always thought I was going to finish Nate Marquardt," said Lombard, who did so by knockout in less than two minutes at UFC 166. "He likes to go in and strike, and even though he ran a little bit, I knew at one point, he would try to exchange and I would catch him."
He caught him all right, picking up his 19th knockout victory and announcing his arrival to the 170-pound weight class in as emphatic fashion as someone can. So what's the verdict on fighting at welterweight?
"I feel a lot faster, more focused, more into the game," said Lombard, who admits that while he felt stronger as a middleweight, "I was carrying a lot of weight then."
Which makes the speed advantage he now has on most opponents at welterweight even greater. Add in his one punch stopping power, and the 36-year-old is more dangerous than ever. It makes you wonder whether he now wishes he made the move even sooner.
Five round fights are not for the timid. And if you've been fighting the championship distance for as long as Jake Shields has, there are pros and cons to competing in such wars of attrition.
"The good part is that you know you're in a main event or fighting for a title, so it's good to get used to fighting those rounds again," he said. "But it's also a lot of wear and tear on the body, so it's kind of nice to be training for a three rounder."
Fresh from a five round split decision win over Demian Maia in October, Shields will be back to 15 minutes or less of work this Saturday against Hector Lombard, yet despite not having to go through the rigors of preparing for a 25 minute fight, this time around he wouldn't have minded putting in the extra rounds.
This Sunday, March 16 on Main Event a new 170-pound champion will be crowned when Johny "Bigg Rigg" Hendricks battles "Ruthless" Robbie Lawler for the vacant welterweight title.