MMA Weekly (5/22-5/29): UFN 88 Delivers As Garbrandt Finishes Almeida, Stephens Bests Barao
UFC Fight Night 88, by and large, was an MMA card that will be remembered for all the right reasons.
In the main event of the evening, undefeated bantamweights Cody Garbrandt and Thomas Almeida went to war, trading bombs as many fans expected.
However, it was the underdog, “No Love”, that landed first, wobbling the young Almeida, and then, following up with even more strikes until the KO presented itself.
This win is of the utmost importance, for Garbrandt himself, his TAM teammates (who, given the way things have been going, would welcome an improvement to morale), and the bantamweight division, which has now seen the emergence of a clear-cut contender.
It’s time for Garbrandt to receive a fight that’s very, very close to the belt, if not for the title; he stepped up, won a contest which many thought he would lose, and provided a breath of fresh air to a fairly barren weight class.
In the co-main event of the evening, longtime veteran Jeremy Stephens and former UFC bantamweight champion Renan Barao entertained in a three-round affair, which ultimately saw Stephens walk away with the unanimous decision.
How Barao survived the series of punishing strikes—mainly uppercuts—Stephens landed in the second is a mystery, but he was still competitive throughout the contest; featherweight is definitely the best division for Barao.
For Stephens, this is an ultra-important win that puts him one big step closer to a shot at the title (like bantamweight, when examined at its most basic level, featherweight isn’t particularly stacked with viable title fights). In a year or two, “Lil Heathen” could get his chance to become featherweight champion.
Before this, the featured fight of the night also delivered, as Rick Story—seemingly unaffected by the long layoff—defeated the former Strikeforce welterweight champion Tarec Saffedine via unanimous decision.
The loss certainly wasn’t due to a lack of trying on Saffedine’s end, as he landed a number of elbows and head kicks that simply didn’t affect Story—at least on the outside. “Horror” Story then used his continual movement, takedown attempts, and boxing to clearly command the action, overall.
Before this, Chris Camozzi locked-horns with KO artist Vitor Miranda and pulled off the upset.
Miranda, who has established himself as a real fight finisher in the UFC (winning three consecutive fights via KO before this), was overwhelmed by the kicks and pressure of Camozzi, who looked technically phenomenal (it was also interesting to find that he’s landed the second-most leg kicks in UFC middleweight history, behind Michael Bisping).
Prior to this, in another thrilling affair (which was competitive and close), Lorenz Larkin bested Jorge Masvidal over three rounds. This fight was crazy, and if you haven’t watched yet, you definitely should. Additionally, it’s now abundantly clear that if Masvidal is involved in a close or semi-close fight that hits the scorecards, he probably won’t win.
Finally, the main card began with a thrilling (and close, once again) bout between Josh Burkman and Paul Felder, which saw Felder secure the unanimous decision; this fight was so close that the decision could have gone either way.
As a whole, UFN 88 was marvelous, barring its incredibly long run time (about six hours, from FP prelims to the conclusion of the main event).
UFC Announces Multiple New Fights
In addition to holding a high-quality show, the UFC announced quite a few contests this week, many of which are very interesting:
Matt Brown vs. Jake Ellenberger at UFC 201
Matt Brown is evidently interested in making a quick turnaround, and on paper, this appears to be a very challenging match-up for Ellenberger. However, it’s important to bear in mind that the collegiate wrestler is always dangerous, and that his prior three losses have also contained some glimpses of a vastly improved game (and come against elite competition).
Ryan Bader vs. Ilir Latifi at UFC: Hamburg
This stylistically appealing fight will mold the direction of each man’s UFC career, and also, directly impact the divisional standings and the title-shot picture of 205.
Stipe Miocic vs. Alistair Overeem at UFC 203
Clevelanders will finally be treated to their first UFC show when the Ohio-proud reigning heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic puts his belt on the line against Alistair Overeem at UFC 203.
Overeem has been on an absolute tear since teaming up with Jackson-Wink’s gym, and fans don’t need a reminder of Miocic’s skills just yet, given his recent KO finish of Fabricio Werdum. This fight is all but sure to thrill.
Alex Caceres vs. Cole Miller at UFC 199
Every now and then, injuries ruin top-quality contests that would have otherwise thrilled fans of the sport. However, on occasion, injuries provide fans with bouts more interesting than those originally scheduled. Alex Caceres vs. Cole Miller is one of those bouts.
Both veterans of The Ultimate Fighter and skilled submission experts, Miller and Caceres are exciting, ever-improving, and tough-as-nails, and the originally derived bout of BJ Penn vs. Dennis Siver, in all honesty, wasn’t as good as this one.
Erik Perez vs. Francisco Rivera at UFC 201
The always-thrilling Rivera and the similarly exciting Erik Perez are sure to entertain here, and frankly speaking, this is a must-watch fight for those who enjoy action-packed MMA.
Bellator Announces Several Fresh Contests
Despite not holding a show this week, Bellator was very active, as demonstrated by the contests they announced:
Chris Honeycutt vs. Mikkel Parlo at Bellator 156
Honeycutt is moving up to middleweight for this contest against Parlo, which is absolutely outstanding. The Dethrone Basecamp product Honeycutt is incredibly skilled, as is Mikkel Parlo, although this will be his first professional bout since November of 2015.
Ben Reiter vs. A.J. Matthews at Bellator 156
Another appealing fight, Reiter vs. Matthews will actually take place on the preliminary portion of Bellator 156.
Ricky Rainey vs. Thiago Jambo at Bellator 156
Jambo is a veteran of TUF Brazil who trains alongside the Pitbull Brothers, while Rainey is an exciting striker and Bellator vet; this preliminary contest will be fun.
It’s also worth mentioning that, unfortunately, Fernando Gonzalez was forced to withdraw from his scheduled bout against Michael Venom Page at Bellator 158, due to visa issues. This is a shame, as Gonzalez presented the “true test” that so many fans are itching to see for Page.
A replacement opponent has yet to be named.
Another nice thing about Sunday-night UFC shows is that they place us even closer to next weekend’s fights; UFC 199 is right around the corner. Let’s hope this pay-per-view event delivers action like that of UFN 88.
Enjoy the fights!