UFC Fight Night 88 Breakdown: Thomas Almeida vs Cody Garbrandt

Thomas AlmeidaPrior to each UFC fight card, Jay Primetown takes a look at some of the key contests at each event. In the latest installment, we look at the main event of UFC Fight Night 88 when undefeated bantamweight prospects square off as Thomas Almeida takes on Cody Garbrandt.   Thomas Almeida (Record: 21-0, -165 Favorite, Fighter Grade: B+) The 24-year old Brazilian heads into Fight Night 88 in his first ever main event inside the Octagon. The number seven ranked bantamweight in the organization takes a 21 fight winning streak into this big opportunity. A win for Almeida could see him face a top five opponent in his next contest. Almeida has been fighting professionally for less than five years, but his striking is already considered by some the gold standard in MMA. He’s a black belt in muay thai from the acclaimed striking camp Chute Boxe. What sets Almeida apart from other strikers is his variety in combination. He throws with heavy volume and mixes in location so well when he sees openings. Almeida lands 6.82 significant strikes per minute; one of the highest numbers in the UFC. Combining that with 50% accuracy and in a southpaw stance, it makes him a very difficult opponent to game plan and train for. Almeida is also very long for the weight class with a 70 inch reach. On the feet, Almeida is a nightmare match-up for anyone in the division. Almeida not only has the technical gifts, but he backs it up in the cage. In all four of his UFC fights, Almeida has received either a fight of the night or performance of the night award. With that said, there are a couple of holes in Almeida’s game. His aggression leaves him open to the counter. Almeida is hittable and can be stunned, but he has shown good recovery in his fights. Almeida does hold a brown belt in jiu-jitsu, but his grappling is not considered elite by UFC standards. An opponent’s best chance to beat Almeida is to control him from top control.   Cody Garbrandt (Record: 8-0, +145 Underdog, Power Ranking: C+) The Ohio-born and raised Garbrandt was a high school wrestling standout winning a state championship in his freshman year. Garbrandt has been fighting professionally for less than four years. He enters his first UFC main event undefeated with all but one of his victories coming by knockout. In addition to his wrestling accolades, Garbrandt was an accomplished amateur boxing with a 32-1 career record. He started his career in Ohio, but he made a big decision to move west in 2014 and train at Team Alpha Male. That decision completely changed his career path as he would go on to have daily training with some of the top fighters in the world. That tremendously built his confidence and his all-around game. Garbrandt has successfully landed 44% of his takedown attempts in the UFC with nearly two takedowns per 15 minutes in the Octagon. He combines that with a boxing focused striking attack in which he lands 3.63 significant strikes per minute, while only absorbing 2.61 strikes per minute. His striking prowess is near the top of the division in punching power. Still, his level of competition is very green. Of the three fighters he’s faced in the UFC, Marcus Brimage would be considered his best win and Brimage has lost five of his last six fights overall. Without a doubt, Almeida is a gigantic step up in competition.   Match-up A rare prospect vs. prospect main event headlines UFC Fight Night 88. These type of match-ups usually see fireworks. A similarly built main event was when the Korean Zombie faced Dustin Poirier in what was one of the best fights one will ever see. Sunday night’s fight pits two action packed strikers which will surely end inside the distance. Garbrandt is a boxer, while Almeida has is a muay thai practitioner. If the fight does go to the ground, it’s an area where Garbrandt should have the advantage. While Garbrandt would likely be in top control if there is some grappling in this bout, Almeida has the better jiu jitsu and could threaten with submissions. With that said, that’s the much more unlikely scenario. Both fighters excel in the striking game and will look to put their name into title contention with knockout victory. The difference between these two guys on the feet is significant. While Garbrandt has been heavily promoted and publicized, his striking combinations are still rather basic, yet effective. On the flip side, Almeida lands a whopping three significant strikes per minute more than his opponent. Furthermore, he’s much more accurate and works several different areas. Almeida is a master of body combinations and tires his opponents out with those strikes. While Garbrandt is a good striker, Almeida is a fantastic striker and is the top Brazilian prospect currently in MMA. Garbrandt could clip Almeida in an extra exchange, but if he does I’d expect Almeida to recover and to chip away at Garbrandt with his volume approach. Look for Garbrandt to fade in the second round and for Almeida to really pour it on for a late second round or early third round finish. This fight is simply too much, too soon for Garbrandt. While these fighters are only a month apart by age, Almeida has already had nearly 15 more professional fights than the American. Almeida Inside the Distance (-111) is a great play on a fighter who has finished all but 2 of his 21 career opponents and against a fighter who will embrace a stand up exchange.

Written by Jay Primetown

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