Both the main event, as well as the featured UFC Fight Pass bout, at UFC Fight Night 88 will take place in the UFC bantamweight division. Despite the fact that neither bout has the UFC title on the line, they both have something in common; they offer a look at the future of the UFC bantamweight division.
This is especially the case with respect to the main event between Cody Garbrandt and Thomas Almeida – two unbeaten 24-year-olds who look destined for the top. Starting with Almeida, of his incredible 21 fights to date, he has finished 20, 16 of which came by knockout and the majority of those came in the first round. The muay thai black belt has an all-action style with a varied arsenal of attacks, utilising the eight points of contact that the martial art is famed for. This was most memorably evident in his UFC 189 classic against Brad Pickett. The Brazilian threw everything in his locker at Pickett who was able to absorb it all, that is, until Almeida unleashed a hellacious flying knee, knocking the Englishman out cold. In his 4 UFC bouts to date, Almeida has defeated Tim Gorman, Yves Jabouin, Pickett and Anthony Birchak, the latter 3 by knockout which all earned him Performance of the Night honours. The former Legacy FC bantamweight champion has been long-touted as a potential UFC champion, and he may get that chance sooner rather than later if he continues on this run.
Cody Garbrandt will have something to say about that, however. The Team Alpha Male representative holds a professional record of 8 – 0 and, like Almeida, only one of those has gone to a decision, with 7 wins by knockout. “No Love” was most recently seen in action in February at UFC Fight Night 83 in Pennsylvania. Originally booked to fight John Lineker, Garbrandt instead fought dangerous submission specialist Augusto Mendes after Lineker was forced to withdraw during fight week after contracting dengue fever. The late notice opponent change did not adversely affect Garbrandt in any way, as he put on a highly impressive performance, lighting up Mendes regularly before landing a two punch combination that dropped the Brazilian, earning Garbrandt another knockout victory. With that win, plus triumphs over Henry Briones and Marcus Brimage so far in his UFC stint, Garbrandt has laid a solid foundation on which to build his career going forward, which many predict will involve UFC gold.
However, when Almeida and Garbrandt meet on Sunday, only one will leave the octagon with their unbeaten record intact. As the old adage goes “somebody’s 0 must go,” and neither man will give up their 0 without one hell of a fight. This fight marks the first time that a UFC event has been headlined by a bantamweight fight that does not see the UFC title on the line and it is fitting that it features two of the brightest prospects in the division. As previously mentioned, both men are just 24-years-old and it would surprise nobody if this was not the last time we see them stand opposite each other in the octagon, and who knows, maybe the next time they meet there might be a shiny gold UFC belt on the line.
Almeida and Garbrandt are not the only young, undefeated bantamweights on the card, as alluded to above. The UFC Fight Pass featured bout also features a man some believe to be the future of the division, and that man is Aljamain Sterling. “The Funk Master” is 13 – 0 thus far and meets Bryan Caraway in what is most certainly the toughest test of his career to date. As opposed to Almeida and Garbrandt, Sterling is known more for his grappling and submission prowess rather than as a knockout artist, with 6 of his 13 wins coming by submission. Fighting out of Serra-Longo, Sterling holds UFC wins over Cody Gibson, Hugo Viana, Takeya Mizugaki and Johnny Eduardo. His win over Mizugaki is particularly memorable as Sterling finished it with an arm triangle from the bottom, a move rarely seen in MMA. In the process, Sterling became only the second man after Urijah Faber to submit the Japanese legend. Sterling is just 26-years-old and has already climbed to a ranking of #4 in the UFC bantamweight list. Getting passed the battle experienced Bryan Caraway, who is a phenomenal fighter himself, could elevate Sterling into title contention.
Almeida, Garbrandt and Sterling will not have the division to themselves, of course, with current champion Dominick Cruz as well as contenders such as TJ Dillashaw, John Dodson and Raphael Assuncao not in any hurry to go anywhere. In addition, 25-year-old Michael McDonald and 26-year-old John Lineker, who themselves meet at UFC Fight Night 91 in July, must be mentioned in the same category as the aforementioned young trio. However, with these three young stars all fighting at UFC Fight Night 88, the event could be seen as a window through which all MMA fans will be able to get a glimpse at what the future of the UFC bantamweight division could look like.
Aldo vs. Lamas 2 and Ponzinibbio vs. Perry Added to UFC Winnipeg
The UFC has added Jose Aldo vs. Ricardo Lamas 2, and Santiago Ponzinibbio vs. Mike Perry to their UFC Winnipeg card on December 16th.
The two fights were announced as official today on the UFC’s Twitter account.
THIS. CARD. pic.twitter.com/bc4AyNncqy
— UFC (@ufc) October 13, 2017
Aldo (26-3) last fought at UFC 212 in June, where he lost by third round TKO to Max Holloway. After being promoted to the undisputed 145-pound champion last November, he was looking to make the first defence of the title against Holloway.
Lamas first faced Aldo back in 2014 at UFC 169. Aldo, who was again featherweight champion at the time, defeated Lamas with ease winning by unanimous decision (49-46) on all scorecards. Lamas is on a two-fight winning streak after defeating both Charles Oliveira and Jason Knight with impressive finishes.
Since his last UFC loss to Lorenz Larkin back in 2015, Ponzinnibio (25-3) has won five consecutive fights. His most recent victory was a upset win over Gunnar Nelson in July at UFC Glasgow. There was some controversy after the fight, as replays seemed to show a short grab and several eyes pokes from Ponzinnibio before knocking out Nelson in the first round.
Mike Perry has taken the UFC by storm since making his debut for the promotion last August. Picking up four wins all by knockout, the only loss ‘Platinum’ suffered was too Alan Jouban by decision. Ranked at #9 in the welterweight division, a win over Ponzinnibio could definitely propel Perry into the top ten at 170-pounds.
With the additon of these two fantastic fights, the lineup for UFC Winnipeg is as follows:
- Robbie Lawler vs. Rafael dos Anjos – Welterweight bout
- Glover Teixeira vs. Misha Cirkunov – Light heavyweight bout
- Antônio Rogério Nogueira vs. Jared Cannonier – Light heavyweight bout
- Tim Elliott vs. Justin Scoggins – Flyweight bout
- Chad Laprise vs. Galore Bafondo – Welterweight bout
- Alessio Di Chirico vs. Oluwale Bamgbose – Middleweight bout
- Vitor Miranda vs. Julian Marquez – Middleweight bout
- John Makdessi vs. Abel Trujillo – Lightweight bout
- Nordine Taleb vs. Sultan Aliev – Welterweight bout
Why the UFC Needs to Introduce 165 and 175-pound Weight Divisions
- The debacle that were the UFC 216 weigh-in last Friday further highlighted current weight cutting problems in mixed martial arts.
More specifically in this case it was in the UFC’s lightweight division. A fight between Nik Lentz and Will Brooks was pulled due to Lentz having ‘medical issues’ according to a UFC statement, hours before he was due to weigh-in.
Title challenger Kevin Lee then took to the scale seconds before the deadline and was over the limit by a pound. Fortunately he made weight after being given an extra hour. But these are not isolated cases, especially at 155-pounds.
There isn’t necessarily a solution to this problem but there may be a short term fix in the form of new weight classes approved by the ABC (Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports) in July 2017. These include 165 and 175-pound divisions.
While not specific to the lightweight division, the problems with weight commonly occur there. In March this year, Khabib Nurmagomedov was rushed to hospital during fight week when cutting down for his title contest with Tony Ferguson. Subsequently the UFC 209 main event was cancelled. Khabib has been regularly discussed as a title challenger but he’s often struggled to make weight and failed on numerous occasions.
With drastic dehydration it is still unknown what health implications may effect him and other mixed martial artists in the future.
Some top ranked fighters such as Donald Cerrone, Jorge Masvidal and Rafael Dos Anjos have moved up to the welterweight division to preserve their health from these strenuous cuts, and have all been relatively successful.
However, many fighters are still reluctant and insist on dropping 10-20% of their bodyweight in the hours and days leading up to a bout. For example, Kevin Lee was rumoured to be 19 pounds over the day before he stepped on the scales.
At 170 pounds, welterweight is fifteen pounds more than lightweight which is a noticeable difference between relatively low weight classes. Especially when you consider that the divisions increase ten pounds from as low as 115 up to 155. There are many fighters who find themselves too big to be a lightweight, yet too small to compete at welterweight.
The incidents last Friday should hopefully be a wakeup call to the UFC, who can also set an example for other organisations such as Bellator, One FC, and Cage Warriors.
So far in 2017 the UFC has lost 14 fights in 48 hours or less before they were due to take place. That is one fight every two cards. While weight cutting is not always to blame, more often than not it plays a big role. These situations leave the UFC at a loss, fighters without opponents and a pay check, and fans disgruntled. Not to mention the health implications for the athlete involved.
The UFC must recognise these common patterns, remove the 170 pound welterweight division and create 165 and 175 pound rosters instead. Some may see an additional weight class as devaluing UFC titles even further but this would not be the case.
Recently the women’s featherweight title was created without having a roster of women to fill it. However, the difference with lightweight and welterweight is that they are comfortably the two deepest, most talent stacked divisions in the organisation.
Admittedly, there is a lot of history attached to the welterweight title since Pat Miletich first won it back in 1998. The likes of Matt Hughes and Georges St Pierre have also added prestige to the belt over the years.
Even so, the sport has changed since then and it’s in a transitional phase. We are in the era of USADA, the era of banned IV drips and certain commissions tightening their regulations on how much they allow fighters to safely cut. Everyone is accountable and aware of the dangers, yet steps still need to be taken.
The athletic commissions and the UFC in particular must act by introducing super lightweight (165lbs) and super welterweight (175lbs) divisions. Perhaps from a fighter’s perspective it seems like a no-brainer that their health should be the main priority.
From a fans point of view there is plenty of talent that could be used in those two divisions. The novelty of fighters blending into these classes would also have the feeling of a superfight. The likes of Nurmagomedov, Lee, Masvidal, Cerrone and Dos Anjos would certainly fit well into a 165 pound division.
Similarly, at 175 pounds, Tyron Woodley could transition from welterweight champion to super welterweight champion. Top talents such as Robert Whittaker, Stephen Thompson, Demian Maia and Robbie Lawler would be perfect matches for this weight.
If this was a success then super middleweight (195lbs) and cruiserweight (225lbs) divisions could be an option in future too.
As previously mentioned this won’t necessarily fix the issues of weight cutting but it gives martial artists another option and is a positive step towards fighter’s safety. Currently there has been no mention by the UFC about introducing these new divisions.
However, with fighter safety being of upmost importance these new divisions must be given serious consideration.
James Gallagher out of Bellator 187 in Dublin due to injury
Irish fans will have to wait a little longer to see James Gallagher fighting on home soil after Gallagher suffered a knee injury in preparation for his main event fight with Jeremiah Labiano in Dublin next month. This bad news was first reported by MMAFighting.com.
The 20-year-old from Strabane co. Tyrone who trains in the famous SBG gym with Conor McGregor and Gunnar Nelson among others has set the featherweight division alight since joining Bellator in 2016. James “The Strabanimal” Gallagher has gone 3-0 with all three of his wins coming by rear naked choke.
After submitting Chinzo Machida, the brother of former UFC light heavyweight champion, Lyoto Machida in Madison Square Garden Gallagher has become a budding star for Bellator.
Due to the youngster’s attitude and potential, many comparisons between Gallagher and UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor have been made by the fans and media which has made Gallagher one of Bellator’s most recognizable names. This notoriety has ultimately led to the young Irishman getting a chance to headline in Dublin this November but this injury has delayed his rise for the time being.
Gallagher on social media Thursday stated that he has suffered an injury to his PCL and LCL in his knee and would be out for the remainder of the year. He has assured fans we would return next year and carry on where he started with “The Jimmy show.”
His longtime rival AJ McKee, who has engaged in a Twitter war with Gallagher after his last fight, will now headline Bellator 187 in the 3 Arena in Dublin on November 10th against Gallagher’s SBG teammate Brian Moore. Moore will be making his third appearance for Bellator in this featherweight clash.
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