'UFC Fight Night 88' Preview and Predictions

UFC Fight Night 88 is taking place this Sunday night from Las Vegas, and I have mixed feelings about the way the event has been promoted. On one side, I love the fact that the Fight Pass exclusive prelim is getting a big push. Their "Netflix like" service has been vastly improved, with better userface and connection. Bouts like this one present a fantastic opportunity to attract new fans. On the other side, it seems like the main card has been ignored. I find this to be astonishing. This FS1 card offers some incredibly exciting and fresh match ups! Anyways, here are my thoughts and predictions on three of the most interesting fights taking place this weekend:

Aljamain Sterling vs. Bryan Caraway

The Fight Pass main event will have the newly re-signed Aljamain Sterling take on Xteme Couture's Bryan Caraway (aka Miesha Tate's boyfriend). This one is bound to be a competitive, physical contest in the 135 pound division. Sterling has been calling out Caraway since last year. From insulting Internet posts, to public UFC interviews. He wants him in the cage. This Sunday, he finally gets his wish.

Now, these guys have pretty similar styles. They're both wrestlers, and will both finish you if they get a hold of your neck. On the feet, they have different techniques, but I wouldn't call either man a "stand up artist". Sterling likes to move around a lot, while throwing wild kicks. Caraway isn't the most aggressive man with his hands. He likes to take his time, and throw some offense to eventually set up the takedown. As a whole, I believe Sterling is the quicker, more effective striker. That's why I have my chips on Sterling. He possesses better striking, and he seems like a man on a mission.

Prediction: Aljamain Sterling

Renan Barao vs. Jeremy Stephens

Next, we will witness a fighter who suffered one of the biggest downfalls in MMA's history make his debut in the Featherweight division. Indeed, Renan Barao is back. It was truly sad to see the way his story played out. For the longest time, this guy was seen as the best fighter on the planet! He held one of the longest unbeaten streaks in history, recording 32 straight victories over a span of 9 years. After that, T.J. Dillashaw beat the living crap out of him, knocking him out twice. Now, The Baron looks to prove that he still has unfinished business with the sport. A victory over Stephens could certainly make his case.

Barao has always been known for his perfect mix between technique and power. His timing is incredible. His boxing is fluid. His ground game is masterful. I desperately want him to go back to his old ways, because he can be one of the best fighters on the entire roster. So far, all the talk has centered around Barao, but I didn't forget about Jeremy Stephens. This American mixed martial artist is one of the most ruthless, powerful strikers under 150 pounds. Every punch he throws is made to knock your head off. He even holds a KO victory over current Lightweight champion of the world, Rafael Dos Anjos. Also, he has a solid wrestling background.

With that being said, I still have to go with Barao. His complete arsenal and impeccable takedown defense should allow him to come out on top (as long as he doesn't get dropped by one of Stephens' sledgehammer fists).

Prediction: Renan Barao

Cody Garbrandt vs. Thomas Almeida

Finally, we get to the main event. Let me tell you something, folks: this one has "fight of the night" written all over it. The UFC is putting two undefeated fighters who just love to bang on the feet inside the cage. Team Alpha Male’s Cody Garbrandt will be taking on Brazilian knockout artist Thomas Almeida, on a bout I can't wait to see.

Cody Garbrandt made his UFC debut last year, but he has quickly made a name for himself. This american boxer, with a 32-1 amateur boxing record, is known for his aggressive, reckless style. He doesn't really mind missing. If he connects with the right blow, he'll turn your lights off. He loves to utilize the left hook, and he's great at avoiding strikes and countering. He is very smooth on the ground, thanks to his wrestling credentials. Then, we have Almeida. Thomas, Thominhas, Almeida is a vicious Muay Thai artist. He has earned a performance of the night award in his last three fights. His stand up game is extremely rich and varied, attacking from multiple angles with different strategies. I used to see him as a prospect, but his fight against Brad Pickett showed me that the future is now. This kid can take a massive punch, and comeback to obtain the W.

How do I see it playing out? It'll be a striking clinic. Don't think either guy is particularly interested in taking things to the ground. Overall, I give the advantage to Almeida. His striking is a lot more accurate. That, alongside his technique and timing should be enough for his hand to get raised.

Prediction: Thomas Almeida

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