MMATorch Daily Top Five 5/25: Top Fights on Sunday’s UFC Fight Night 88 Card

By Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief

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5/25/16: Top Five Fights on Sunday’s UFC Fight Night 88 Card

Sunday’s UFC Fight Night 88 event features a number of intriguing fights from top to bottom, many of which have gone under the radar due to a very good month in terms of matchmaking from the UFC. Today we look at Sunday’s five best fights, and why you should tune in to check them out!

5. Tarec Saffiedine vs. Rick Story: This one’s slightly hurt by the fact we know Saffiedine’s coming in nursing an injury, especially since that injury nearly pulled him from the card. However, it’s still a really interesting welterweight matchup, with both fighters potentially capable of significant runs in the division when healthy. That caveat is an important one, as neither has been very healthy recently, but the winner of this one could start a run from there. If the injury doesn’t wind up affecting him too much, Saffiedine’s likely to be the better fighter, but Story is a scrappy vet who has a lot of really good wins on his record. It should be an entertaining one here.

4. Renan Barao vs. Jeremy Stephens: Barao, the former UFC Bantamweight Champ, jumps up in weight for the first time against a former lightweight and current top ten featherweight. This is a major establishing bout for Barao in the 145 lb. field, and will determine whether or not he’s poised to be a competitor in a new weight class. If not – if he falls short to a good, albeit flawed, Stephens – Barao’s time as a contender could be done forever. It helps that stylistically this one should be a fun one regardless of the outcome, and makes for a really solid co-main event on Fox Sports 1.

3. Jorge Masvidal vs. Lorenz Larkin: This fight has completely thrown under the radar, but I absolutely adore what Joe Silva’s put together here. Larkin, a former light heavyweight who has found new life down at 170 lbs, takes on a former lightweight contender who moved back up just last year. Both fighters are capable of spectacular violence in the cage, with Larkin one of the more unorthodox and unpredictable strikers in the game. Though that hasn’t always equated to success, it’s almost always fun to watch, and Masvidal is in good fights more often than not. I expect this to be a legitimate “Fight of the Night” challenger when the event is finished on Sunday night.

2. Aljamain Sterling vs. Bryan Caraway: The “featured” bout for UFC Fight Pass, bantamweights Sterling and Caraway are both trying to take another step up in the 135 lb. field in this fight. The UFC is trying to make the UFC Fight Pass service a must-have for fans, and as such they’re putting more promotional resources into some of their “featured prelim” fights on these cards. Such has been the case for this bout in particular, and the undefeated Sterling has an opportunity with a win over a very good veteran in Caraway to stake his claim as a contender. Fresh off of signing a new deal with the organization, he may be ready to pull off something fantastic to make that statement, and no matter how it plays out it should be a very good fight.

1. Thomas Almeida vs. Cody Garbrandt: Speaking of very good fights, this main event matchup was ultimately the right one to put on top of this card. While Sterling might actually be ahead of both of these fighters in the field, Caraway isn’t necessarily in that spot, and the combined 29-0 record of Almeida and Garbrandt makes this one especially intriguing. Almeida’s beaten the better fighters thus far between the two of them, and has a couple of absolutely stunning wins in his UFC career. Garbrandt has pulled off highlight reel wins himself to date, and is extremely dangerous himself. I love the matchup, it was one of my most anticipated fights for the month, and it could wind up being one of the best fights we’re going to see in this division in 2016.

[Photo (c) Jason Silva via USA Today Sports]

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