On Sunday, May 29, the UFC touched down in their home base of Las Vegas for Fight Night 88: “Almeida vs. Garbrandt”.

The rare Sunday night card took place at the Mandalay Bay Event Centre and was headlined by a bout between Brazil’s Thomas “Thominhas” Almeida and Team Alpha Male’s Cody “No Love” Garbrandt.

The two exciting bantamweight prospects entered the fight undefeated, with a combined record of 28 wins and no losses, including 26 finishes by TKO or submission.

Fight Night 88 also featured a notable featherweight match-up in the co-main event slot. Former 135lbs champ Renan Barao moved up a weight class to make his 145lbs debut against hard-hitting veteran Jeremy Stephens. This was Barao’s first fight since a fourth round TKO loss to then-bantamweight-champ TJ Dillishaw at UFC on FOX 16 last July.

The Fight Night 88 main card aired on FOX Sports 1, with the televised prelims airing on FOX Sports 1 and early prelims streaming on UFC Fight Pass.


Joshua Burkman vs. Paul Felder

As the fight got underway, Burkman was initially more successful with his strikes, but Felder countered effectively and held the center of the cage. After a wild exchange, Burkman capitalized on a single leg and took Felder to the ground but the “Irish Dragon” managed to get back to his feet before round one ended.
Round two saw Felder land the more effective strikes, however Burkman slowed down the action with clinch work against the cage. After some back and forth, Felder reversed the position, put Burkman’s back against the cage and ended the round with control of his back from standing.
Felder appeared to be the fresher fighter entering the third round. His strikes had more pop than Burkman and he landed a big spinning back kick, but was unable to capitalize as he lost his footing — Burkman seemed to have a little chuckle as Felder immediately popped back up to his feet. A big punch from Felder left Burkman bloodied, but the veteran was undeterred as he shot for a takedown. Burkman took Felder to the ground, but he immediately got back to his feet and Felder again controlled the clinch, but was unable to create an opportunity for much offense before the round ended
At the end of a competitive three rounds, the judges awarded a unanimous decision win for Paul Felder.

Jorge Masvidal vs. Lorenz Larkin

The first couple of minutes of this fight was primarily a feeling out process with a few flurries, as Larkin pushed forward and Masvidal circled away. Larkin landed a hard left body kick and Masvidal soon responded with a spinning back kick of his own. With a few seconds left in the first, an unintentional eye poke sent Masvidal to the canvas in obvious pain. Thankfully, the cageside doctor gave Masvidal clearance for the fight to continue.

Larkin opened round two with a series of flashy kicks that mostly found empty space, although a jumping high kick cracked Masvidal and illicted a smile from “Gamebred”. Masvidal countered with hard right punches during several exchanges, which eventually prompted Larkin to engage the clinch and pressure Masvidal on the cage. Masvidal found a home for a couple of elbows before reversing position and breaking away from the cage. The final minute saw a number of entertaining exchanges, and Larkin landed a quick takedown on Masvidal in the closing seconds.

Both fighters came out aggressive in round three, happy to trade single shots while circling the cage. A right high kick and right hand from Masvidal were answered by an oblique kick and left body kick from Larkin. Masvidal opened up Larkin’s nose with a hard punch, prompting Larkin to shoot for a takedown, at which point Masvidal threatened with a standing guillotine. Another clinch from Larkin led to a scramble and Masvidal was able to get him to the ground momentarily. Larkin immediately got back to his feet and pressured Masvidal on the cage. The remainer of the round played out similarly, with a few solid exchanges interspersed among cage pressure and takedown attempts from both fighters. In the end, the judges gave Larkin the split decision win.

Chris Camozzi vs. Vitor Miranda

In the third main card fight, well-rounded vet Chris Camozzi faced the heavy strikes of Muay Thai specialist Vitor Miranda. Miranda landed a number of heavy leg kicks early on, but Camozzi returned fire with kicks and elbows of his own. Miranda caught Camozzi’s leg on a kick and initiated a takedown. A sloppy scramble led to both fighters sitting upright on the mat, legs entwined in a rarely-seen 50/50 guard. Camozzi made the most of the position, landing a couple of hard punches before the round ended.

Camozzi managed to catch a body kick and sent Miranda flying to the ground with a beautiful trip in round two. On the ground, Miranda avoided damage by controlling Camozzi’s posture, and made several attempts to create a scramble. However Camozzi proved to be comfortable in the transitions and maintained top control, eventually making his way to side control where he used some nasty elbows to bloody Miranda’s face and continued to land until the round came to a close.

As the third round began, referee Herb Dean called in the cageside doctor to inspect a gash extending across Miranda’s left eyebrow. Thankfully, the fight continued.

Miranda came out aggressive in round three and Camozzi was happy to oblige. Camozzi ducked a Miranda punch and locked his arms around the Brazilian’s body before slamming him to the canvas. Camozzi again transitioned to side control but was unable to cause much damage. Back on their feet, the fighters exchanged kicks and punches in the centre of the cage. Though both fighters were bloodied and tired, they showed grit and determination to finish the fight. Ultimately, Camozzi earned the unanimous decision, scoring 30-27 on all three judges’ scorecards.

Tarec Saffiedine vs. Rick Story

In a fight between two tough, durable fighters, the question quickly became which would emerge as the tougher and more durable one. Saffiedine, despite nearly missing the fight because of a cut on his knee sustained during training, had no qualms with throwing kicks and knees using the affected leg. Story found immediate and ongoing success by initiating the clinch and battering Saffiedine with Nick Diaz-esque flurries to the body — except Story has undoubtedly more power than the Stockton slugger. Saffiedine absorbed a number of hard shots and landed several knees in the clinch, as well as big kicks on the break.

As the fight wore on, Story was able to dictate the pace of the fight, grinding Saffiedine on the cage with his superior wrestling skills, and again pummeling “The Sponge” with body shots. Saffiedine kept things interesting, landing several big shots in the clinch and at range, and putting Story’s chin to the test.

Lucky for Story, his chin passed the test and he earned a unanimous decision win over “The Sponge”.

Renan Barao vs. Jeremy Stephens

In what would later be awarded the Fight Night 88 Fight of the Night bonus, former UFC bantamweight champ Renan Barao made his featherweight debut against powerful striker Jeremy “Lil Heathen” Stephens. Stephens established range early with a number of kicks, but Barao fired back with crisp combos.
Barao seemed sharp and strong at 145lbs, even going as far as to muscle Stephens — a former lightweight — against the cage a number of times, but Stephens’ takedown defense was on point.

Stephens landed several heavy shots early in round two that rocked the former champ. An uppercut and hard straight right from Stephens had Barao backing up, trying to clear his head. Barao maintained his composure and shot for a takedown, but Stephens reversed it and put the Brazilian on the cage, where he landed several more knees in the clinch. Barao scored a late takedown, but Stephens’ striking was the prevailing story of round two.

Barao entered round three with a clear line of blood meandering down the left side of his face, courtesy of Stephens’ fists. Stephens again landed a few hard shots, but Barao absorbed them and continued to push forward. Barao attempted several takedowns before finally succeeding with a double-leg midway through the third, however Stephens made it back to his feet without absorbing any damage. As the fight drew to a close, both fighters stood and traded, still looking to land the fight-ending blow before the final horn.
Stephens took the fight two rounds to one on all the judges scorecards, earning the unanimous decision victory.

Thomas Almeida vs. Cody Garbrandt

Garbrandt opened up the fight with a blisteringly fast Capoeira kick that barely missed Almeida as he backed up. Almeida had a very wide, low stance indicating that he was not afraid of Garbrandt’s wrestling credentials. However, it soon became clear that Garbrandt had no intention of making this a wrestling match. “No Love” landed a variety of leg kicks and strikes early and often, while Almeida had success with a few counter strikes in the pocket.

At the two minute mark of round one, Garbrandt cracked Almeida with a stiff left and followed up with a nice combo as Almeida stumbled back towards the cage. Almeida recovered and offered some offense of his own. Garbrandt stayed patient until he found an opening for a picture perfect right hand on Almeida’s chin, sending the Brazilian to the mat.

Garbrandt quickly jumped on his opponent and landed a couple of hammerfists before referee John McCarthy stepped in to call of the fight, declaring Garbrandt the winner by KO.

“No Love” now moves to 9-0 professionally and handed Almeida the first loss of his professional career.


Main Card (FOX Sports 1)

Cody Garbrandt def. Thomas Almeida via KO (punches). Round 1, 2:53
Jeremy Stephens def. Renan Barao via Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Rick Story def. Tarec Saffiedine via Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
Chris Camozzi def. Vitor Miranda via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Lorenz Larkin def. Jorge Masvidal via Split Decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Paul Felder def. Josh Burkman via Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

Prelim Card (FOX Sports 1)

Sara McMann def. Jessica Eye via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Abel Trujillo def. Jordan Rinaldi via Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Jake Collier def. Alberto Uda via TKO (kick, punches). Round 2, 1:06
Erik Koch def. Shane Campbell via Submission (rear-naked choke). Round 2, 3:02

Prelim Card (Fight Pass)

Bryan Caraway def. Aljamain Sterling via Split Decision. (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Adam Milstead def. Chris De La Rocha via TKO (punches). Round 2, 4:01