Cody Garbrandt picked up a major win for Team Alpha Male when he knocked out Brazilian super-prospect Thomas Almeida on Sunday in the main event of UFC Fight Night 88.
The breakout performance was the perhaps the biggest boost Garbrandt's team has gotten since its heavily publicized split with former UFC champion T.J. Dillashaw, and for the squad's founder and leader Urijah Faber -- who challenges for the bantamweight title at UFC 199 -- it couldn't have come at a better time.
"It does (help)," Faber said Tuesday on The MMA Hour. "It's been a rocky year, as far as emotionally for me, because I really put my heart and soul into building a great culture and a great team. We went through a divorce, in my opinion at the hands of greed, which I hate to see. So to see the renewed enthusiasm for what we've built here, with guys like Justin Buchholz stepping up, guys like Danny Castillo stepping up, guys like Chris Holdsworth and Fabio Prado and Coach Joey and Master Thong, the list goes on -- we've got so many great contributors to our team, and Cody is such a good guy, man."
Garbrandt entered the match against Almeida as an unranked fighter, but left with a No. 7 ranking in the UFC's media-generated bantamweight rankings after knocking out Almeida with a dazzling first-round assault at UFC Fight Night 88. He then played his hand perfectly, challenging top-ranked division-mate Bryan Caraway to a title eliminator showdown at UFC 203.
After pumping up Garbrandt to fight fans over the past several years, Faber is proud of what his young teammate is now accomplishing.
"It's so funny, because don't judge a book by the cover," Faber said. "They always say that. When I first him with the tattoos and things like that, I didn't know what he was all about. That guy has got a heart of gold. He really does. He's a very loyal guy. He's a hard working guy. He's a determined guy. He's got a great attitude, and he just proves it over and over again.
"To see something great happen for him, somebody who's setting the next bar for his community and for his friends back home and for his next generation of family, I mean, the guy is stepping up the game and he trains like a champion. He does everything he can like a champion. He goes to bed early, he gets up early, he's at practice early, he's looking for every single edge and the guy is a killer, man. He's a lady killer. He's a fight killer. I mean, the guy is a star. I think we saw that."
With Garbrandt's win in the rearview mirror, the spotlight now turns to Faber, who faces UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz in a long-awaited trilogy fight on Saturday night at UFC 199.
Cruz captured the title with a split decision win over Dillashaw earlier this year, and though Cruz had plenty of mileage on his body from years of career-derailing injuries, Faber was impressed by what he saw from his returning rival.
"I think he looked good his last fight," Faber said. "He hasn't slipped a bit. I actually thought T.J. was going to beat him. I would say though that little things count. He's had surgeries. He's gotten older. I don't think he's probably had a healthy lifestyle his whole life. I'm not sure, but every little thing counts in this fight, so I would say his skills are there. Fighting mentality, he's got that. As far as the heart goes, he's got that. The ability to train hard, he's got that. I have all of that too. It's going to be who is the best man out there and every little bit counts, and I'm going to tell you, I'm prepared."