Bantamweight Thomas Almeida carries an impressive record into his UFC Fight Night 88 main event against Cody Garbrandt on Sunday night in Las Vegas. Depending on the source, it's either 21-0 (Wikipedia) or 20-0 (Sherdog).
But an eye-popping record doesn't always mean a substantial resume. And Garbrandt believes he's going into this matchup of undefeated bantamweight hotshots against a foe with padded results.
"Of course he has a padded record," the Team Alpha Male fighter said on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour.
Almeida's record was brought up in the context of a prediction made by the Brazilian fighter that he'll finish Garbrandt in the second round of their matchup at the Mandalay Bay Events Center. Garbrandt believes that if a fighter with such a gaudy record was truly confident, he wouldn't expect it to get that far.
"If I'm 21-0, however many cab drivers he beat for that record, I would be very confident definitely that I would beat an 8-0 guy in the first round," Garbrandt said. "Anybody that I fought in the first round, so for him to say he'd knock me out in the second, feels like he has a little bit of doubt in himself you know? I want to make sure that bout won't go beyond the first round."
Almeida has 19 career finishes. But none of his first 18 career opponents even have a Wikipedia page, perhaps bolstering Garbrandt's claim. Still, though, Almeida's gotten the job done in the UFC going 4-0 and earning postfight bonuses in all four fights, including a memorable rally against Brad Pickett at UFC 189.
"I'm impressed with the guys he's fought against," Garbrandt said. "Anyone can do that with guys who stand there and let you bomb on them. You know? With Pickett, he took angles on him and countered him. He had Almeida hurt, he caught him with the knee, it's good, he got to show a lot heart in that fight. But in this game you don't really want to be known for having to do that, having to be tough, having to show your heart to come back. That's great, that's something I look forward to, I respect him on that level, that he comes to fight, he's tough, he has heart. He's going to need all of that and his skills."
It's clear Garbrandt is willing to take passive-aggressive jabs at Almeida all day if you let him, but that still doesn't detract from his focus on the task at hand. This bout's been put together for an obvious reason, as it seems a slam-dunk the winner will become a ready-made title contender at 135 pounds.
Of course, 135 has another contender in Garbrandt's own gym, as TAM founder Urijah Faber challenges Dominick Cruz for the belt at UFC 199. Garbrandt says training side by side with Faber has helped him channel his energ for thout.
"He just turned 37 years old," Garbrandt said. "And to have such successful longevity in his carer having fought all the top guys in the world for basically his whole career since he got to MMA, to see him still doing the stuff he did when he was 24, training, just being obsessed with the sport and being obsessed with getting better in the gym constantly and fighting for the title, its great to be peaking with him on the time, training with him, learning from him."
Garbrandt insists, though, that should Faber win the title, he's going to do everything he can to avoid another T.J. Dillashaw-like controversy at the gym.
"I probably would never fight Urijah for the belt to be honest," Garbrandt said. "Its not going to be a money thing for me that would give me that fight. I've got a lot of respect for him, I really do. A really humble dude, he's been nothing but honest and real to me ever since the first day I met him. Yeah, I want to win the belt, but whatever he wants to do if I had to wait take another fight, and beat someone up, I'm willing to do that, willing to fight and earn my shot and go from there. Everything will fall into place."
And for that to happen, Garbrandt needs to take care of business Sunday night. Garbrandt's not afraid to make a prediction on what will go down, and he's not going to wait for the second round to make it happen.
"I'm gonna go out there and find that chin, get that chin early in the first round, I'm going to find his chin and hit him hard and he won't be able to come back. He's going to get dropped. He's going to show his heart and his toughness but he's going to be hurt and he's going to be out and I'm going to give him his first loss in the first round. Expect fireworks."