Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight heavy hitters Hector Lombard and Anthony Smith battled last night (Sept. 16, 2017) at UFC Fight Night 116 inside PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Talk about a must-win fight. After his return from a failed drug test, Lombard lost his next three fights in ugly fashion. His bout with Smith was something of a step back in competition, and Lombard was forced to perform in order to remain on the roster.

Alternatively, it was a huge opportunity for Smith, who has looked much improved in his current UFC run. With all his tools finally coming together, Smith was hoping to make the jump from prospect to contender.

The problem of range was immediately obvious for Lombard, who looked to rush in with big combinations. Smith responded with lateral movement and kicks up the middle, which found him some early success.

About 90 seconds into the round, however, Lombard scored with some heavy shots that sent Smith chasing a desperate double leg. Smith looked to be in a bad position, but he returned to his feet and went back to work. As the faster man, Lombard was soon able to find his range, which allowed him to spring forward with accurate shots. He also attacked the lead leg often, which did some real damage.

Both men had their moments, but Lombard captured the opening round pretty violently.

Interestingly, Lombard was finding so much success with his low kicks that he was the one looking to maintain range in the second. Whether from fatigue or damage was hard to tell, but Smith was quite a bit slower by this point in the fight, which allowed Lombard to negate his range disadvantage.

In the final minute of the round, Smith came alive a bit. He clipped Lombard with a right hand and clean body kick, then a second right hand stunned his opponent. Lombard used a takedown to stall along the fence, but he was definitely hurt.

Suddenly, it was a very close round.

Smith was fired up into the final frame, and he was landing at a higher pace as a result. Both men were fatigued, but Smith pushed the pace anyway. Lombard stalked and landed as well, but ultimately his aggression created the finishing opportunity for “Lionheart.”

As Lombard pursued, Smith shot out a fast right hand that smacked his opponents forehead then pulled back. Lombard reached for him with a counter punch but came up short, which allowed a clean 1-2 to connect to his opponent’s jaw for Smith’s second consecutive third-round knockout.

This was a major win for Smith and a great addition to his win streak. His game will never be the prettiest, but Smith has come a long way in solving the holes in his conditioning and wrestling. He was able to remaining standing for pretty much the entire fight and look for his opportunities. and he eventually found the perfect punch to end his opponent’s night.

After the fight, Smith revealed an interest in jumping up to 205 lbs. If he can fill out his frame and avoid getting out-muscled, it’s a smart move. Smith has a pace that few Light Heavyweights can match already, and that should improve without having to cut weight. Plus, the division is wide open, so the timing for this experiment couldn’t be better.

As for Lombard, this is the end of his UFC career. At 39 years old, he’s now lost four straight fights and been knocked out in a trio of those losses. That’s a steep fall for a man who once went years and years without tasting defeat, and he may be looking at retirement.

If not, there’s always Japan.

Last night at UFC Fight Night 116, Anthony Smith rallied back to knock out Hector Lombard. What’s next for the lanky kickboxer?

For complete UFC Fight Night 116 “Rockhold vs. Branch” results and play-by-play, click HERE!