Over the weekend UFC officials announced that a bantamweight bout between Thomas Almeida and Cody Garbrandt will be headlining UFC Fight Night 88. The event is set to take place May 29th at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The winner of this fight could find themselves in a bantamweight title fight before the end of 2016. They both have perfect records, Almeida is 20-0 while Grabrandt is 8-0, so someone will be tasting defeat for the first time.

It will be Almeida’s fifth fight in the UFC and he has wins over veterans Yves Jabouin and Brad Pickett. In the fight with Pickett, Almeida had to survive an early barrage before he was able to get the TKO in the 2nd round by flying knee.  He’s a very dangerous striker and possibly the best prospect in the UFC’s 135lb division.

Garbrandt is coming off his third straight UFC win and eight overall. He was supposed to face John Lineker in his last fight but the Brazilian dropped out at the last minute due to injury.  Instead Garbrandt faced UFC newcomer Augusto Mendes and he got the win in the first round by TKO.  He trains with Team Alpha Male, led by bantamweight title challenger Urijah Faber, so Garbrandt is definitely well rounded and would be a tough fight for Thomas Almeida.

Along with the main event several other bouts have been announced for the UFC Fight Night 88 card, including, Renan Barao vs. Jeremy Stephens at featherweight, Tarec Saffiedine vs. Rick Story and Lorenz Larkin vs. Jorge Masvidal. It looks like a stacked card, for more coverage of this fight card and everything UFC, check out profightingfans.com.

Brent Haugh

Pro Fighting Fans Editor/Writer

UFC on FOX 18 is a little light on star power, but that doesn’t mean it lacks any meaningful bouts. Of course it’s speculated that the main event between Ryan Bader and Anthony Johnson will be a title eliminator.  If we look past the main and co main events we can see there a couple of very interesting fights taking place earlier in the night.

 

Sage Northcutt (7-0) vs. Bryan Barberena (10-3)

Saturday night will be all about Sage, there’s no doubt about it. At this point in his young UFC career Sage Northcutt is the main attraction no matter who stands across the cage from him.  At UFC on FOX 18 it will be Bryan Barberena, a late notice replacement for Northcutt’s original opponent Andrew Holbrook.

In his UFC debut Barberena came back from a slow start to defeat Joe Ellenberger in the 3rd round by TKO.  Things were looking up for the Minnesota native before he ran into TUF Nations winner Chad Laprise in his next fight at UFC 186 in Montreal, Quebec.

Barberena was originally scheduled to face Jonavin Webb at UFC Fight Night 82 on February 21st.  Instead he’ll step in against Northcutt.  Due to the short notice nature of the bout it will be contested at 170lbs.

Sage Northcutt tore through his first two UFC opponents, Francisco Trevino and Cody Pfister, making quick work of both men. But it’s likely that Bryan Barberena has faced the tougher competition inside the octagon and he was already training for a fight, so he shouldn’t be out of shape.

If Barberena isn’t afraid to stand in the pocket with Northcutt he could force him to engage in a brawl. If Sage can get distance though, he would be able to open up with kicks and cause all sorts of trouble for his opponent.

This fight is opening up the main card for UFC on FOX 18. It will be an interesting test for the 19 year old golden boy Sage Northcutt, so don’t miss it!

 

Jake Ellenberger (30-10) vs. Tarec Saffiedine (15-4)

Tarec Saffiedine’s UFC career could be described as inconsistent and not too many people would argue with that. Not only has he fought very few times in three years, the quality of his performances has been less than stellar.

Saffiedine has been scheduled to face Jake Ellenberger on two separate occasions but both bouts were scrapped due to injuries. Now it’s been over a year since we saw the former Strikeforce welterweight champion getting beat up by Rory MacDonald, it marked the first time in his career that he had been finished.  He has a great shot at redemption on Saturday night, but getting past Ellenberger is never an easy task especially if cage rust is a factor.

Jake Ellenberger might be fighting for his job at UFC on FOX 18 having lost 4 of his last 5 fights. All of those losses came against top notch competition like Robbie Lawler and Kelvin Gastulem, while the lone victory was a submission win over veteran Josh Koscheck.  However, when you are getting paid to fight it’s generally understood that winning has a positive effect on your employment.  Ellenberger needs to show up on Saturday night if he wants to keep getting paid by the UFC.

It would seem as though both men are healthy and this should be an entertaining matchup. It closes out the preliminary card which airs on FOX Sports 1 at 5pm ET.  For more coverage of UFC on FOX 18 keep checking back with Profightingfans.com.

Brent Haugh

Pro Fighting Fans Editor/Writer

After causing more noise than nearly every other competitor to the UFC during its peak years, Strikeforce went out fairly quietly with its final event over the weekend, as the California-based organization will now close up shop. It was a long time coming, as the promotion was sold to UFC parent company Zuffa in 2011 and had been hemorrhaging money almost since that time. Just as fellow defunct organization WEC had, the final bout in the organization’s history featured an upset, as welterweight Tarec Saffiedine earned a unanimous decision over the heavily favored Nate Marquardt to claim the organization’s welterweight title. Saffiedine likely earned a spot on the UFC’s roster with the win, something that had only been promised to former UFC castoff Marquardt prior to the bout.

One of very few top ten fighters left on the Strikeforce roster, heavyweight Daniel Cormier ended his Strikeforce career with a bang, as the unbeaten former NCAA champion and Olympian put a clinic on against the overmatched Dion Staring in the co-headliner. Cormier is now expected to face Frank Mir in his UFC debut in April, and but he has vowed to drop to light heavyweight after that to take on his verbal sparring partner Jon Jones this fall.

Josh Barnett isn’t guaranteed a spot in the UFC due to a rocky past with the organization, but he certainly made his case as one of the sport’s elite heavyweights with a first round submission over Nandor Guelmino. Afterward he called out the entire UFC roster – or any heavyweight that is willing to step in the cage with him. A pair of former Strikeforce champions also earned likely tickets to the UFC, as middleweight Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and light heavyweight Gegard Mousasi both earned quick stoppage victories. Souza stopped UFC import Ed Herman with a first round submission, and Mousasi retired Mike Kyle with a submission of his own.

Strikeforce preliminary winners were Ryan Couture, Tim Kennedy, Pat Healy, Roger Gracie, Adriano Martins, and Estevan Payan.

Jones wins Fighter of the Year

UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones may have taken the blame for the cancellation of UFC 152, but that didn’t hinder him from winning the “Fighter of the Year” award at the 2012 World MMA Awards ceremony. He beat out Daniel Cormier, Ronda Rousey, Nate Diaz, and Benson Henderson to claim the award at the ceremony in Las Vegas. Other notable award winners were Dana White (Leading Man of the Year), Chris Weidman (Breakthrough Fighter of the Year), Edson Barboza (Knockout of the Year), Rousey (Female Fighter of the Year), the UFC (Promotion of the Year), and Frank Mir (Submission of the Year/Comeback of the Year).

Bellator vs. Alvarez appears to be headed to court

It appears as though the contract battle between Bellator MMA and its former lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez could be headed to court. After Alvarez’s contract expired in October, he received a contract offer from the UFC. But Bellator had the option to match the offer, and they feel like they made an exact offer. Alvarez’s attorneys felt otherwise, as he was guaranteed a network TV deal on FOX (which Bellator couldn’t offer), and an immediate title shot. It remains to be seen how the battle will play out, but if Bellator does earn the services of Alvarez, he likely won’t be a happy employee.

Bellator sets tourneys for Season 8

With or without Eddie Alvarez, Bellator is moving forward with its eighth season, which will be its first on Spike TV. The season will begin this week with Bellator 85, as a pair of title fights will kick things off for the organization on its new home. Lightweight champion Michael Chandler will defend his title against Rick Hawn, and featherweight champion Pat Curran will defend his title against Patricio “Pitbull” Freire. The event will also include three quarterfinals in the light heavyweight tournament, which includes former Strikeforce champion Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal, former UFC title challenger Renato “Babalu” Sobral, and “Kimbo Killer” Seth Petruzelli.

The next week, Bellator 86 will feature the organization’s welterweights. Champion Ben Askren will defend his title against Karl Amoussou, and the search for the next challenger will begin with the 170-pound tournament quarterfinals. Marius Zaromskis, Ben Saunders, Douglas Lima, and five others will battle for a title shot.

Bellator 87 will feature the lightweights, as eight fighters will vie for a shot at the 155-pound title, including Will Brooks, Patricky “Pitbull” Freire, Lloyd Woodard, and Alexander Sarnavskiy.

TUF 17 cast announced, one fighter a “boogeyman”

The cast for the 17th season of The Ultimate Fighter was announced this week, and it appears as though one fighter on the cast of middleweights puts nearly every opponent he faces in the hospital. That fighter is rumored to be Tor Troeng, a Swede who is known for his vicious fighting style. Other notable fighters include former NCAA wrestling champion Jake Heun, Strikeforce veterans Kevin Casey and Zak Cummings, EliteXC veteran “Bubba” McDaniel, and Northeast powerhouse Uriah Hall.

Quick Hits

The UFC has suspended two more fighters for failing post-fight drug tests, as middleweight Rousimar Palhares and light heavyweight Joey Beltran both received nine-month suspensions following losses at UFC on FX 6 in December…Invicta FC 5 will feature the organization’s debut in California, and the April event will feature 105-pound atomweight champion Jessica Penne’s first title defense against Michelle “Karate Hottie” Waterson…One FC 7 will take place on Feb. 2 in Malaysia and is set to feature a Malaysian featherweight championship tournament…Jon Jones’ next light heavyweight title defense is official for April 27, as he is set to face Chael Sonnen after the two serve as opposing coaches on The Ultimate Fighter 17.

By David McKinney (@MMAMcKinney)

ProFightingFans.com Editor

dInvicta Fighting Championships has been a trailblazer through its first year as the world’s only all-female MMA promotion, and they continued to blaze even more trails with InvictaFC 4, which was supposed to be the promotion’s debut on Internet pay-per-view. Technical difficulties at the beginning of the night however caused officials to decide to broadcast the event for free.

In the main event at InvictaFC 4, Carla Esparza toughed out a unanimous decision over late replacement Bec Hyatt to claim the organization’s first-ever 115-pound title. Hyatt attempted to come out with a fast start hoping to end the fight early and catch Esparza off guard, but Esparza’s wrestling was too much for Hyatt and she was able to grind out a 50-45 decision on all three judges’ scorecards after five rounds. In the co-headliner, Alexis Davis avenged an earlier loss to Shayna Baszler with a third round submission win. Other notable winners were bantamweight Leslie Smith in a back-and-forth bout against former friend Raquel Pennington, Ediane Gomes in a display of power over Hitomi Akano, and 105-pound atomweight Cassie Rodish.

Dream returns for one night only event

Dream returned to Japan on New Year’s Eve for a one-shot MMA event titled Dream.18, and a few notable names were in action at the event. In the headliner, Shinya Aoki submitted UFC veteran Antonio McKee after landing a big right hand on the American wrestler that caused him to tap out while holding the ropes. Longtime Japanese veteran Tatsuya Kawajiri won for the the fifth straight time, continuing his successes since dropping to the featherweight division by earning a unanimous decision over the struggling Michihiro Omigawa. Fan favorites Bibiano Fernandes and Melvin Manhoef both earned quick stoppages – Fernandes a technical guillotine over Yoshiro Maeda, and Manhoef a TKO via knee over Denis Kang.

Strikeforce set to say farewell

Strikeforce is set to say farewell with its final event Jan. 12, as the card will feature a headliner between welterweight champion Nate Marquardt and challenger Tarec Saffiedine. Heavyweight Grand Prix winner Daniel Cormier is also on the card, as he’ll take on veteran Dion Staring. Other notable bouts feature grand prix runner-up Josh Barnett vs. Nandor Guelmino, light heavyweights Mike Kyle vs. Gegard Mousasi, and former middleweight champion Ronaldo Souza vs. UFC import Ed Herman.

With Strikeforce on its death bed, the UFC has begun to absorb some of the organization’s talent, including Cormier, who signed a multi-fight deal with the UFC and will enter the heavyweight mix after his bout against Staring. Despite an ugly exit from the UFC, Marquardt is also back in the top organization in the world, as well as former title challenger Tyron Woodley, who already has his first UFC date set: UFC 156 against Jay Hieron. Other imports are expected to take place as well, and as many as 20 Strikeforce fighters will receive UFC contracts.

Quick Hits

MMA legend and UFC Hall of Famer Dan Severn announced his retirement from MMA at the age of 54; he had 101 wins in the sport…Bellator matched the UFC’s offer to sign former lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez, and UFC president Dana White has predicted that negotiations could “get ugly”…Bellator has set its light heavyweight tournament field, including former UFC title challenger Renato “Babalu” Sobral, former Strikeforce champion Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal, and Seth Petruzelli…The highlight-based Bellator 360 debuted on Spike TV on Thursday and had nearly 500,000 viewers, more than any Bellator event on MTV 2.

Rumblings

Dave Meltzer reported that 10 women under are UFC contract, including Ronda Rousey, Liz Carmouche, Miesha Tate, Sarah Kaufman, and Sara McMann. Cris “Cyborg” Santos is also in talks with the organization, but they will only sign her to compete at 135 pounds…Bellator is expected to make 4-6 appearances in Ohio this year…UFC on FOX 6 will take place on April 20 at the HP Pavilion in San Jose…After Strikeforce’s last event, Showtime is expected to immediately get back in the MMA business, and favorites to take the slot are World Series of Fighting and/or Invicta Fighting Championships.

By David McKinney (@MMAMcKinney)

ProFightingFans.com Editor