Who wins the Cody Garbrandt vs. Thomas Almeida main event at UFC Fight Night 88, and how?
MICHAEL BANE, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Two young fighters with perfect records and a combined 26 finishes in their 29 wins? Sign me up! Remember when Jon Jones took on Ryan Bader in a clash of two up-and-comers on their way to potential title shots? This is like that, just smaller (as the fighters are literally about half a person smaller in this division). While there’s precedent for it in Jones vs. Bader, the UFC doesn’t typically burn two younger fighters as possible contenders by facing them off against each other, making this a somewhat rare treat.
This fight could be a barn burner, with both men loving to keep pressure on the opposition. One of the immediate things we’ll find out shortly after the fight starts is which fighter will end up imposing his will and going forward, and which one will initially be stepping back. At such a young age, Almeida is as complete as they come, with his violent striking usually putting an end to fights. Do you recall his flying knee finish against Brad Pickett at UFC 189? That type of explosive, out of nowhere ability to end the night makes him a treat to watch.
If Garbrandt has an edge, it might be in his wrestling. He’s a natural athlete who won a state championship in high school wrestling. It’s not to say he’d necessarily have a dominant edge over Almeida on the ground (the Brazilian has a solid ground game with three submission victories), but he’s comfortable enough to feel safe taking the fight there if the striking battle turns against him. That said, I doubt that is what his strategy is going to be. A former amateur boxer with a 32-1 record, Garbrandt loves to stand and bang, and all of his finishes have come via punches by KO and TKO.
I don’t expect this one to go five rounds. Both fighters have shown a propensity to throw caution to the wind and fire away.They both pack enough power at 135 pounds that someone going to hit the floor. It’s almost unfortunate that someone is going to have to lose this fight before making it to a title shot, but they’re both young enough and talented enough that a loss to the other isn’t going to be much of a step back. Depending on the fight itself, the loser of this could emerge just fine. I’ll take the guy with the edge in experience. Almeida by TKO in the third.
RICH HANSEN, MMATORCH COLUMNIST
Ok, fine, Cody Garbrandt, Thomas Almeida has in fact crushed some cans in his day, or as you put it, “however many cab drivers he beat for that record.” And yes, it’s true, 18 of the 21 fighters Almeida has beaten en route to his 21-0 record have Wikipedia pages. Of course, only 1 of Garbrandt’s eight opponents on his way to his own undefeated record have Wikipedia pages. So, neither fighter has fought the 27 Yankees. Sorry, baseball is dead, the 85 Bears. And of course, as of this writing, Garbrandt’s own Wikipedia page, let me quote from the source here, “may not meet Wikipedia’s notability guideline for biographies.” So Garbrandt might want to consider looking in the mirror before his mouth writes some checks that his ass won’t be able to cash if Thomas Almeida dusts him on Sunday night.
Almeida took some punishment against Brad Pickett at UFC 189, but managed to persevere until he found his one opening. That was all he needed in order to flatline the very tough Brit. Almeida’s experience in that fight led to some notable defensive improvements, which we saw against Anthony Birchak his next time out. Almeida’s managed to improve every time he’s taken the cage, and I expect that ascension to continue this weekend.
FRANK HYDEN, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Both fighters are young, exciting guys with lots of power so I’m expecting fireworks. I think Almeida wins by TKO in the 2nd round, but a Garbrandt TKO wouldn’t surprise me either. I think Almeida catches Garbrandt with a flurry in the second round after an exciting first round. Honestly, the only thing that would surprise me is if this is a boring fight. I would be stunned at that, given the history of both fighters. This is an extremely interesting main event and the winner is really going to be in a good spot in the bantamweight division. There’s still plenty of guys ahead of them in the division to sort themselves out, but the winner will remain undefeated with a bunch of exciting victories to his credit.
CASH NORMAN, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
This has all the makings of being a barn burner! Two young hard hitting undefeated knockout artists. Fight fans should be thanking the MMA gods this fight is happening. Who will win? I have no clue. Here’s the problem, Thomas Almeida is most likely the better overall striker of the two, however, he is a slow starter and tends to get dropped early on in his bouts. Cody Garbrandt is an absolute killer and knows how to finish opponents, so if Almeida gets rocked or goes down early in the first round, it’s hard to believe Garbrandt will allow him to recover. However, if Almeida is able to weather the initial onslaught of Garbrandt and withstand his heavy hands, I would not be surprised if he’s able to pick him apart before setting up a finishing sequence to take Garbrandt out in the second or third round. Who wins in this bout? We the fans win, all praises given to the MMA gods.
DAYNE FOX, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
This one isn’t easy to pick since it’s hard to fully grasp where either of these fighters are. Almeida has the better quality wins, taking out the likes of Yves Jabouin, Brad Pickett, and Anthony Birchak compared to Garbrandt scoring his UFC victories over Marcus Brimage, Enrique Briones, and Augusto Mendes. Despite the better quality of victories, it isn’t like Almeida has beaten anyone who is in contention or has been within the last few years, but there is little doubt that we have a better feel of his talents based on that track record than we do Garbrandts.
Many are picking against Almeida thanks to his tendency to start slow, and I can’t deny that being sound reasoning as it took him a little while to find his groove against those aforementioned opponents. Then again, only four of his fights have ever left the first round, so he can’t be that slow of a starter. I also can’t help but feel Garbrandt hasn’t faced anyone with a fraction of the explosiveness that Almeida possesses regardless of how fast Almeida supposedly starts. I’m taking the safer pick in Almeida to score a TKO late in the first round, though I’ll hardly be surprised to see Garbrandt score the upset.
[Photo (c) Jason Silva via USA Today Sports]
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