Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is back on FOX Sports 1 this weekend with a special Sunday night (May 29, 2016) fight card inside Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
UFC Fight Night 88: "Almeida vs. Garbrandt" is headlined by the bantamweight contender showdown pitting Thomas Almeida opposite fellow undefeated 135-pound phenom Cody Garbrandt.
Somebody's "O" has got to go.
Elsewhere on the UFC Fight Night 88 fight card, Renan Barao tires to redeem himself with a trip up to featherweight at the expense of veteran slugger Jeremy Stephens, while Rick Story and Tarec Saffiedine collide for welterweight bragging rights.
All that and so much more.
If you want a closer look at the UFC Fight Night 88 "Prelims" action on FOX Sports 1 and UFC Fight Pass, see what the lovable Patty Stumberg had to say about them here and here. Odds and betting lines for "Almeida vs. Garbrandt" can be located here.
Now that we got that out of the way, let's get to the main card.
135 lbs.: Thomas "Thominas" Almeida (20-0) vs. Cody "No Love" Garbrandt (8-0)
Nostradumbass predicts: Thomas Almeida is the cat's meow at 135 pounds because he's racked up an impressive four straight wins -- with three consecutive finishes -- since making his Octagon debut in late 2014. That pushes his pro record to a staggering 20-0.
But all that glitters is not gold.
Compiling wins over the cream of the crap like Michel "Cage Boy" Igenho (8-16) and the red-hot Edmilson Atanasio (0-2) does nothing to counter his opponent's recent claims that "Thominas" made a name for himself by beating up cab drivers.
Not that Cody Garbrandt has faced a murderer's row of rough-and-tumble bantamweights.
If we give some of that statistical jetsam the old heave-ho and focus strictly on their fights under the UFC banner, it's hard to give either fighter the edge. Both have heavy hands, solid cardio, and a respectable ground game, as you would expect from the next generation of cage fighters.
But I can't shake that memory of Brad Pickett double-parking Almeida on queer street.
This should prove to be an entertaining fight and I like the wrestling aspect "No Love" brings to the table. The Brazilian is certainly going to have his moments, but I think Garbrandt is going to become the breakout star this Sunday in Las Vegas.
And I mean that in the most violent way possible.
Final prediction: Garbrandt def. Almeida via technical knockout
145 lbs.: Jeremy "Lil' Heathen" Stephens (24-12) vs. Renan "Barao" Pegado (33-3, 1 NC)
Nostradumbass predicts: Here's a little stat for all you numbers guys (and gals): Former lightweight Jeremy Stephens recently celebrated his nine year anniversary as a UFC fighter and in those nine years, he's never come close to a division title shot.
That probably won't change anytime soon based on his recent 1-3 run.
Stephens' claim to fame is landing a third-round shoryuken on now-lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos, back when the Brazilian was built like Olive Oyl and still figuring out how to throw a punch. Since then, "Lil' Heathen" has alternated wins and losses, depending on the level of competition.
He beats the bottom half of the division all day, but struggles when faced with a legit contender.
That's bad news against a former champion in Renan Pegado, who may have made his name at 135 pounds, but is better suited for a career at featherweight. Not having to cut a ridiculous amount of weight -- coupled with his championship experience -- makes this a very winnable fight.
Assuming TJ Dillashaw did not eat his soul.
It's hard to know how a fighter will react to a violent knockout loss but Pegado is still just 29 years old and outside of faltering against "The Viper," he's looked virtually invincible. Thinking about how Stephens looked against guys like Cub Swanson and Charles Oliveira makes this a fairly easy pick.
Final prediction: Pegado def. Stephens via submission
170 lbs.: Tarec "The Sponge" Saffiedine (16-4) vs. Rick "Horror" Story (18-8)
Nostradumbass predicts: Tarec Saffiedine has not finished a fight in over six years and outside of his technical knockout loss to Rory MacDonald at UFC Fight Night 54 in late 2014, has been to the judges' scorecards in eight of his last nine appearances.
He's also competed just once since that loss due to multiple injury setbacks.
I'm not sure what "The Sponge" brings to this contest that Rick Story hasn't already seen -- and conquered. "Horror" has struggled to find consistency, racking up a 6-5 record since turning away Johny Hendricks in late 2010, but has never been knocked out in 26 professional fights.
They don't get any tougher at welterweight.
Saffiedine has a sneaky submission game, but I don't think someone with Story's experience is going to silver-platter a limb. That said, his wresting will come into play at some point, so an exposed neck is not out of the question. Barring that quick finish, this is likely to be three rounds of mug-and-slug.
It won't be pretty, but winning ugly is still winning.
Final prediction: Story def. Saffiedine via unanimous decision
185 lbs.: Chris Camozzi (23-10) vs. Vitor "Lex Luthor" Miranda (12-4)
Nostradumbass predicts: After racking up some wins on the regional circuit, Chris Camozzi was invited back to UFC to play the role of cannon fodder for Ronaldo Souza, who was in need of short-notice opponent at UFC on FOX 15. He got subbed, but nobody cared because "Jacare" just needed a warm body.
He's since redeemed himself with consecutive wins over Tom Watson and Joe Riggs.
Camozzi is the same fighter now as he was during his first run inside the Octagon: well rounded and capable in every skill set, evidenced by an even seven knockouts and seven submission victories. He's also never been knocked out in 33 trips to the cage.
This fight might break that streak.
Vitor Miranda finished 11 straight opponents -- violently -- and is now the winner of three in a row after a decision loss to Antonio Carlos Jr. kicked off his UFC career. "Lex Luthor" throws knees and head kicks like most fighters throw jabs and he's only seen the third round once in the past seven years.
Camozzi, who is eight years younger than the Brazilian bomber, can win this fight if he can make it ugly and grind out the decision. But 15 minutes is a long time to stay upright against a killer like Miranda and I think it's only a matter of time before something wicked this way comes.
Final prediction: Miranda def. Camozzi via knockout
170 lbs.: Jorge "Gamebred" Masvidal (29-10) vs. Lorenz "The Monsoon" Larkin (16-5, 1 NC)
Nostradumbass predicts: Jorge Masvidal can be a frustrating fighter to watch. He's a terrific striker and has a submission game that is not to be taken lightly (just ask Michael Chiesa). But for every brabo choke and knockout from elbows (Cezar Ferreira), there are decisions up the wazoo.
I hate the wazoo.
Unfortunately for fight fans, he's facing the type of combatant who is likely to bring out the worst in him. Lorenz Larkin is a powerful striker -- 10 knockouts in 16 wins -- and looks demonstrably better since abandoning the 185-pound weight class. I just have a hard time imagining "The Monsoon" putting Masvidal to sleep.
He's just too damn tough.
That means three rounds of sloppy kickboxing unless Larkin starts getting outboxed and turns it into a wrestling match. Either way, the judges are going to reward the busier fighter and I can't remember the last time I saw "Gamebred" operate with any sense of urgency.
Final prediction: Larkin def. Masvidal via split decision
155 lbs.: Josh "People's Warrior" Burkman (28-12, 1 NC) vs. Paul "Irish Dragon" Felder (11-2)
Nostradumbass predicts: Josh Burkman, who dates all the way back to The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 2, finally got called back to UFC in January 2015. Unfortunately, the World Series of Fighting (WSOF) import got a pretty rude welcome from Hector Lombard.
It was overturned after "Showeather" melted his test tube, but then Burkman coughed up losses to Dong Hyun Kim and Patrick Cote -- getting finished in both fights. The good news is, "People's Warrior" was able to keep his job by decisioning KJ Noons a few months back.
I'm not crazy about his chances in this fight.
Paul Felder had his bubble burst after dropping two straight fights to Edson Barboza and Ross Pearson. Working in his favor is the fact that neither loss was a blowout and he's since got back into the win column at the expense of Daron Cruickshank.
And the "Irish Dragon" likes that spinning shit.
Burkman is more experienced and has the better resume, but I also believe he's on a downturn. Let's face it, after 40 pro fights there are undoubtedly a lot of miles on those tires. Felder is younger, fresher, and becoming a better fighter each time out.
Final prediction: Felder def. Burkman via unanimous decision
There you have it.
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 88 fight card on fight night (click here), 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 main card start time at 9 p.m. ET, also on FOX Sports 1.
You've heard from me, now let's hear from you. Who gets the job done this weekend in "Sin City?"