‘Sin City’ was on fire yesterday, and it wasn’t because of the action going down in the casinos.
UFC Fight Night 88 ran through Las Vegas last night and it was a fun evening for fight fans nationwide. The card featured some spectacular bouts that proved to be a huge night for the underdogs, as seven of them took home the victory Sunday night.
Undefeated records were snapped, potential title contenders emerged, UFC debuts were spoiled, and fighters returning off injury let us know that they are still relevant in the deep divisions the UFC has to offer.
We have a lot run through fight fans so with that being said, lets take a look at the five biggest takeaways from UFC Fight Night 88…
5. Is Bryan Caraway Ready For A Title Shot?
Aljamain Sterling’s undefeated fight record has come to an end, and it was at the hands of longtime UFC veteran Bryan Caraway.
Caraway ended ‘The Funk Master’s’ thirteen fight win-streak last night in Vegas, when he edged Sterling in a split decision victory after a three round war.
While Sterling controlled Caraway for the majority of the first round, ‘Kid Lightning’ masterfully handled the No. 4-ranked 135-pounder in the second and third rounds with his magnificent wrestling ability.
Caraway has now mustered up two wins in a row since his unanimous decision win over Eddie Wineland last July, giving him wins in four of his last five bouts since his decision loss to Raphael Assuncao in October of 2014.
Following his win Sunday, Caraway stated that he is ready for a title opportunity as he is a new-and-improved fighter since losing to Assuncao.
While current title-holder Dominick Cruz is set to defend his title against Urijah Faber this Saturday, there are a few title-eliminator match-ups that could be made to determine the next man up for the 135-pound strap.
Perhaps a bout against Cody Garbrandt, who we’ll get to in a minute, is a good bout for Caraway next. Or maybe the winner of TJ Dillashaw vs Assuncao in July, giving Caraway the possibility of avenging his only loss in his last five bouts against the Brazilian.
It should be interesting to see how the UFC books Caraway following his win over the No. 4-ranked bantamweight in the world, the road to the title may not be much longer for him…
4. Erik Koch Is Still Relevant
Erik Koch returned to action Sunday night after a two-year-layoff due to a string of injuries, and capped off his return in spectacular fashion with his second round rear-naked choke victory over Shane Campbell.
Koch was last seen in the Octagon when he suffered a first round TKO loss to Daron Cruickshank at UFC Fight Night 40 back in 2014. Now Koch is back and is looking to make a name for himself in the deep pool that is the lightweight division.
‘New Breed’ is new to the 155-pound class after an unsuccessful stint in the featherweight division, suffering losses to those in the upper echelon of 145 pounds such as Dustin Poirer and Ricardo Lamas.
After his unanimous decision loss to Poirer, Koch made a successful debut in the lightweight division with a first round TKO finish against Rafaello Oliveira.
Now with his win over Campbell, Koch hopes his loss to Cruickshank was nothing more than a minor speed bump in his quest to a successful career in the UFC’s highly competitive 155-pound division.
3. ‘The Horror Story’ Is Nowhere Near Over
Another successful return from a near two-year-layoff took place Sunday, when welterweight stud Rick Story made his long awaited return to action against Tarec Saffiedine.
Story was on a two fight winning streak before being sidelined, coming fresh off a split decision win over Gunnar Nelson in October of 2014. Prior to his win over Nelson, Story defeated Leonardo Mafra with an arm-triangle choke in Atlantic city in July of 2014.
Now Story returned to his winning ways, not missing a beat with his unanimous decision win over Saffiedine. Story, who is the No. 11-ranked welterweight in the world himself, will have now more than likely have earned himself a spot into the top ten rankings with a win over the No. 10-ranked Saffiedine.
If Story can continue his winning ways after his return from the lengthy injury layoff, it may not be much longer before we see ‘The Horror Story’ contest for a title inside the Octagon.
2. Barao’s Winning Struggles Continue
Jeremy Stephens and Renan Barao put on a spectacular performance Sunday night in their co-main event of the eventing.
Barao, however, came up just short of the victory with a unanimous decision loss to Stephens after the war the two men engaged in Sunday night.
With the loss in his featherweight debut the former UFC bantamweight champion is now 1-3 in his last four fights, starting his tenure in his new division on the wrong foot after some disastrous weight cuts to 135.
Barao was last in the Octagon contesting for the UFC bantamweight title against now-former champ TJ Dillashaw, that saw the Brazilian being finished in the fourth round of the Chicago showdown back in July. Dillashaw also downed the former Brazilian champ in May of 2014 at UFC 173, where he originally won the 135-pound strap.
Now with his unsuccessful debut in the featherweight division, while putting on a hell of a fight in the process, where does Barao go from here?
1. Cody Garbrandt Is The Real Deal
Once upon a time Thomas Almeida held an undefeated record of 21-0, having finished all but one of those fights via TKO or submission. That is until he ran into his fellow undefeated Cody Garbrandt Sunday night…
Garbrandt displayed some impressive striking against the Brazilian with every shot connecting with devastating power that had the potential to end Almeida’s night early, and eventually did.
Before downing the Brazilian in Vegas, Garbrandt was enjoying an impressive start to his UFC debut after finishing two of his first three bouts in the promotion via knockout. Most recently Garbrandt finished Augusto Mendes via KO at UFC Fight Night 83 back in late February.
What makes his victory over the No. 7-ranked Almeida even more impressive is the fact that Garbrandt was not ranked prior the his main event showdown against the Brazilian, so you can expect a huge step up in competition for the steadily rising 135-pound prospect in the coming months. Don’t be surprised if you see him contending for the title before the year’s end…