Judges not required!
Two elite Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight prospects who have left quite a few broken bodies in their wakes headline the world's leading mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion's latest trip to Las Vegas, Nevada, this Sunday evening (May 29, 2016) as Brazilian knockoutmonger Thomas Almeida does battle with Team Alpha Male standout Cody Garbrandt inside Mandalay Bay Events Center.
In addition, Jeremy Stephens welcomes Renan Barao to the Featherweight division in UFC Fight Night 88's co-main event, while Jorge Masvidal battles Lorenz Larkin in a quality Welterweight showdown.
FOX Sports 1 hosts the last four "Prelims" undercard matches once the Fight Pass portion concludes (read that preview here), so let's see what's in store for the broadcast:
135 lbs.: Sara McMann vs. Jessica Eye
The decision Sara McMann (8-3) earned over Shayna Baszler in her final Invicta appearance and beatdown of Sheila Gaff in her Octagon debut combined with her Olympic silver medal to give her a crack at then-women's Bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey. Things have gone a bit south since, as she’s gone 1-3 and been stopped twice in that span.
She has submitted three opponents and knocked out another.
Jessica Eye (11-4) made a name for herself with a submission of former Bellator tournament winner Zoila Frausto, but has struggled to make the same kind of impact in UFC. "Evil" is just 1-3 (1 NC) in the world’s largest fight promotion, a win over Sara Kaufmann overturned because of marijuana metabolites.
Her four stoppage wins include three by way of knockout.
Though both women entered UFC with considerable promise, it’s become abundantly clear that neither has a place among the elite. McMann’s striking and submission games remain underdeveloped and Eye has struggled mightily to overcome her persistent size disadvantage. Both women need to fix their respective issues for this fight. Nonetheless, McMann’s overpowering wrestling matches up well with Eye’s grappling deficiencies, while Eye’s crisp boxing counters McMann’s plodding stand up.
It’s a close match up, but I’m going to have to go with McMann. I simply do not believe Eye can hold off the takedown for all 15 minutes unless McMann burns herself out going for an early finish again. The Olympian re-enters the win column with a grinding decision.
Prediction: McMann via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Abel Trujillo vs. Jordan Rinaldi
Abel Trujillo (14-6) entered his UFC 195 showdown with Tony Sims as the underdog, having been choked out by Tony Ferguson and bulldozed by Gleison Tibau in a later-overturned defeat previously. Despite a rough start, Trujillo hit a lovely guillotine for his first UFC submission victory.
He will give up two inches of height to the 5’10" Jordan Rinaldi (12-4).
Rinaldi came up short in his bid for The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 15: "Live" stardom, then proceeded to lose four of his next six bouts. Since then, however, he’s won five straight, including pair of main event victories under the RFA banner.
He steps in for Carlos Diego Ferreira, who was nabbed by the USADA in pre-fight testing.
I had Ferreira pegged to defeat Trujillo rather handily. "Killa’s" wild offense opens him up to easy reactive takedowns and his ground game has been ruthlessly exploited in the past. Rinaldi, unfortunately, doesn’t have the Brazilian’s killer submission threat and had very little time to prepare for Trujillo’s bulldozer assault.
Rinaldi has a very solid transition game and, were he more of a physical presence, would be a decent underdog pick. As is, expect Trujillo to punish Rinaldi in the clinch before eventually putting him away with power punches.
Prediction: Trujillo via first-round technical knockout
185 lbs.: Jake Collier vs. Alberto Pereira
Following his knockout loss to Vitor Miranda that came one second before the end of the first round, Jake Collier (9-3) upset TUF: "Brazil 3" competitor Ricardo Abreu via split decision. His last fight saw him face Dongi Yang in the latter’s native South Korea, where Collier suffered a knockout loss in the second round.
He has stopped seven opponents, four of them via knockout.
Brazil’s Alberto Pereira (9-0) has seen the judges just once as a professional, knocking out and submitting four opponents apiece. In his most recent bout, he knocked out former TUF: "Brazil" competitor Thiago "Bodao" with a heavy knee.
"Uda" replaces the injured Keith Berish on approximately two months’ notice.
I have to admit, I regularly struggle to differentiate Collier and Chris Dempsey in my mind -- both unimpressive wrestlers with a penchant for getting brutally knocked out. Collier’s only got two UFC knockout losses compared to Dempsey’s three, but I expect Pereira to fix that this weekend.
With Collier’s pursuit of the takedown and Pereira’s Muay Thai stylings, most of this fight should take place in the clinch, where "Uda" has proven much more adept at dealing damage. The Brazilian’s knees and punches in transition ought to pay dividends as he steadily batters his foe into submission.
Prediction: Pereira via second-round technical knockout
155 lbs.: Erik Koch vs. Shane Campbell
It’s been a rough road for Roufusport’s Erik Koch (14-4) , whose 2011 wins over Raphael Assunca and Jonathan Brookins had him poised for a title shot. Injuries kept him out of action for over a year afterwards and he has lost three of his last four, two of them by knockout.
This will be his first fight in two years.
Shane Campbell (10-4) started strong against John Makdessi in his short-notice Octagon debut, only to be battered into submission late in the first round. "Shaolin" rebounded with an upset of Elias Silverio, but dropped a decision to James Krause his last time out.
At 6’0", he is two inches taller than Koch.
Koch’s recent career has been downright disappointing ... and I’m not just talking about his Trumpian tan. He’s a very capable striker and grappler, but struggles to integrate the two the way that teammate Anthony Pettis did during the latter’s original rise through the ranks. Limited wrestling and a shaky chin present further difficulties for "New Breed" -- and while Campbell is a decidedly mid-tier Lightweight -- his height and power represent serious obstacles.
In all likelihood, this one will be decided on the feet. Campbell wins enough exchanges at range to take home the decision.
Prediction: Campbell via unanimous decision
The top three UFC Fight Night 88 main card matches on FOX Sports 1 are all terrific. Here's hoping this thing lives up to its potential because it's sure got a lot of it.
See you Sunday, Maniacs!
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 88 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, and then the remaining undercard balance on FOX Sports 1 at 7 p.m. ET, before the FOX Sports 1 main card start time at 9 p.m. ET.
Current UFC "Prelims" Prediction Record 2016: 57-34-2