(Jose Youngs/The MMA Corner)Cody Garbrandt The Next Big Star in the UFC? Jake Schneider June 1, 2016 Events, News, Recaps, Spotlight, UFC UFC Fight Night 88 in the Mandalay Bay was a highly anticipated card with a ton of fights set to be guaranteed violence and the event lived up to expectations. The main fight that had the whole MMA community tuning in for was the main event bout between the two biggest prospects in the bantamweight division that due to both fighters style of fighting was going to be a sure thing for fireworks. Although both fighters had a lot of hype going into the bout, Almeida was the fighter with more exposure, as well as experience going into the main event and was also slightly favored by the oddsmakers, closing as a -200 favorite. Cody “No Love” Garbrandt didn’t just beat the at the time 21-0 Brazilian phenom, he took him out in the first round and has established himself as one of the hardest hitters in the 135-pound division. Going into this fight, Almeida was being talked about as not only the future champion of the division, but a possible star of the promotion. Garbrandt came into this fight not even ranked and he ran right through the man who looked to be the most dangerous fight for any fighter in the division. All the hype and momentum Almeida had is now going to give Garbrandt the push and exposure that he deserves. The team Alpha Male product has star written all over him, he has an exciting, fan friendly style of fighting where he is always looking to finish the bout (9-0 record with 8 KO/TKOs), the looks of a champion with his flashy tattoos and an attitude to back it up. He believes he can put away any fighter that is put in front of him, and even stated in the weeks leading up to the fight on Ariel Helwani’s The MMA Hour, that after being told Almeida predicts a second round finish, that he 100 percent believes he will put away the Brazilian within one round and he backed up the talk. Garbrandt has shown the confidence of a champion ever since he made his debut in the UFC back in January of 2015, knocking out Marcus Brimage in his debut. Garbrandt has always talked about himself as a future champion and has been trying to get a big named opponent to prove that he is a champion caliber fighter but just never got the chance until facing Almeida. After going only 2-0 in the UFC, “No Love” was throwing his name out there with any guy ranked in the top 15 of the division to get a top opponent and he did when he was booked against John Lineker, possibly the most dangerous striker in the 135-pound division. Leading up to the fight, Garbrandt went back-and-forth with Lineker on Twitter and had expressed he didn’t fear standing with Lineker, believing he had more power in his hands then a man who owned 12 KOs in his career, granting him the nickname “Hands of Stone”. Lineker pulled out of the bout due to an illness a week before the fight, giving Garbrandt a replacement fighter in Augusto Mendes who was making his UFC debut. Garbrandt was expected to run right through his new opponent and he did so with a walk off knockout. Now, after facing the #7 ranked fighter in the division in Almeida, who was talked about as the most dangerous fight for any man at 135 pounds, Garbrandt is without a doubt going to be finally ranked and given how impressive his last performance was, will be only a fight or two away from a title shot. He has expressed that he is very interested in being on the UFC 203 PPV card in his hometown in Cleveland and I believe the best opponent for him would be John Lineker, but due to Lineker already being booked against Michael Mcdonald and Garbrandt not wanting to wait that long for the winner, there is one opponent that makes a ton of sense especially with the time frame of UFC 203 in September. The fight between Sterling vs Caraway and Almeida vs. Garbrandt had the feels of an unofficial 4 man tournament happening and it makes a ton of sense for Caraway to now face off with Garbrandt in a winner vs. winner bout. If the UFC wants to take that approach, let Garbrandt and Caraway fight and the winner get the next title shot after the winner of Dillashaw vs. Assuncao at UFC 200. Caraway is a good test and a fighter who could possibly give Garbrandt problems stylistically, especially with Caraway who is respectively coming off an impressive decision win against another highly regarded prospect in Sterling. With UFC Fight Night 88 in the books, a star in Garbrandt has risen and he showed that when you put him in the big time fights, he reaches his maximum potential and is very capable of being the next champion of the bantamweight division. Garbrandt is a name that should be on every person’s radar for the remainder of 2016.