Normally, this is where I’d tell you that this column highlights five past bouts from fighters competing on this weekend’s UFC Fight Night 88. Then I’d go on to say how these fights represent some of the highest moments in the careers of their respective participants, and should serve to pique your interest heading into the event. Not this week. This week is all about the special kind of violence that UFC Fight Night 88 headliner Thomas Almeida brings to the cage. Now, his opponent Cody Garbrandt is no slouch in that department either (7 T/KOs in 8 pro fights), but the way Almeida unloads and finishes people is something truly special. 20 of his 21 opponents have been finished — the vast majority by T/KO — but Almeida is still finding new, and even more impressive ways to stop fights. Take his most recent victory for instance. After landing a one-shot flying knee KO on Brad Pickett, we all figured Almeida’s flashy finishes had reached a peak. Instead, he managed to turn a simply finishing flurry into perhaps the best knockout of 2015. Four punches in succession landed on Anthony Birchak’s chin, the last of which left him collapsing onto his own legs like a pile of spaghetti. It doesn’t sound like much out of the ordinary, but it was remarkable to behold. Unfortunately, that fight wasn’t uploaded ahead of Fight Night 88, but there’s still plenty of material on Almeida to work with. Let’s start from the bottom: Nitrix 11 vs. Ivonei Predinik
This was just Almeida’s fifth pro fight, which — if you carry the one — puts him at approximately 12 years old here. Obviously Almeida’s game is far sloppier in this fight, and he even initiates a bit of a takedown battle right off the bat. As soon as he allows himself to work from range however: headkick, punches, and his opponent hilariously protesting the stoppage after giving the canvas a little smooch before waking up.
Legacy FC 15 vs. Cody Williams
The fight where anyone who follows regional MMA really began to take notice of Almeida. Legacy often has a pipeline for bringing in Brazilian talent because of their solid relationship with ‘Macaco’ Patino and the plethora of Brazilians who have chosen to move to Texas. As such, I didn’t take much notice of the skinny Brazilian kid. It took half a round for that perception to change. Almeida lights poor Cody Williams’ world up with a beautiful standing elbow, and with the infamous Jon Schorle refereeing, I’m shocked we didn’t see the end of days for Williams.
MMA Super Heroes 3 vs. Vinicius Zani
The only time Almeida had been past the second round prior to signing with the UFC, this fight was able to answer one of the most important questions about any prospect who simply runs through their opponents: “How’s his cardio?” Well, when you look at Almeida still marching forward in the fourth round and throwing in combination like it’s the first, you get a sense that he’s pretty well conditioned. And the BJ Penn blood licking after the stoppage? Yeah, this kid is a savage.
Legacy FC 32 vs. Caio Machado
The bout that got Almeida signed to the UFC. Sure it was a long time coming, Almeida had been on many people’s radars for a while (certainly since he first showed up in Legacy, above), and Machado wasn’t expected to pull off an upset despite being a decent prospect in his own right. Even still, sorry about your insides Caio.
UFC 189 vs. Brad Pickett
This fight puts you in two camps when it comes to Almeida. Either you’re extremely concerned at how often and how badly he got clipped by an aging former contender (and apparently this was the first time you’ve ever seen Almeida fight, since he always takes shots), or you see that while he did get rocked on a couple occasions, the fight had still turned in his direction by the end of the first round. And then in the second…