UFC Fight Night 88 opinion: Prospects are supposed to lose

Two of the three undefeated bantamweight prospects on Sunday night's UFC Fight Night 88 card suffered their first professional defeats. Thomas Almeida was undone…

By: Mookie Alexander | 7 years ago
UFC Fight Night 88 opinion: Prospects are supposed to lose
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

Two of the three undefeated bantamweight prospects on Sunday night’s UFC Fight Night 88 card suffered their first professional defeats. Thomas Almeida was undone by fellow unbeaten Cody Garbrandt’s brutally powerful right hand, while Aljamain Sterling faded after a strong round 1 and dropped a split decision to the dangerous Bryan Caraway.

As is the usual thing to shout when red-hot prospects are defeated in the UFC, the HYPE TRAIN WAS DERAILED! Come to think of it, Almeida vs. Garbrandt guaranteed this exact outcome regardless of the victor. More than 150 firefighters had to douse the flames from the towering inferno of hot takes and hindsight opinions dished out on MMA Twitter immediately following the event. It’s okay, we all say some crazy things in the heat of the moment, but I do find it bizarre that in a sport that touts how hard it is to remain undefeated, one L can be etched into the brains of fans even well past the point of its relevancy.

Think of our current UFC heavyweight champion, for instance. Stipe Miocic just knocked out Fabricio Werdum in Brazil just two weeks ago. He was knocked out by Stefan Struve back in 2012, in what was only his 10th professional fight in the 2nd year of his career. I think the work he’s shown over the last 4 years is enough to make the Struve loss an increasingly distant footnote.

Just for fun, let’s see what else happened in 2012.

  • Stephen Thompson, just 2 years and 7 fights into his pro career, lost a pretty unflattering unanimous decision to Matt Brown, who had come into the bout having lost 4 of his last 6.
  • Tony Ferguson, 4 years and 16 fights into his pro career, lost a unanimous decision (admittedly not helped by his broken arm) against near 3-to-1 underdog Michael Johnson. This came after Ferguson was probably a tad fortunate to win a December 2011 decision against Yves Edwards.
  • Edson Barboza, 3 years and 11 fights into his pro career, lost by knockout to short-notice replacement Jamie Varner, who had only won 3 of his last 8, and would end his career losing 5 of his last 6.
  • Neil Magny, 2 years and 8 fights into his pro career, was KO’d in the TUF 16 semifinals by Mike Ricci, of whom I have no positive recollection of any of his UFC fights prior to his release.
  • Max Holloway, just 2 years and 8 fights into his pro career, barely beat a thoroughly declined Leonard Garcia by an incredibly ironic split decision. Garcia would promptly get outstruck by Cody McKenzie just a few months later.

And that’s just one year! I didn’t even include 2010 Demetrious Johnson getting taken down 10 times by Brad Pickett in what was just the 11th pro fight and 4th year of his career. Alexander Gustafsson was within a hairsbreadth of being the UFC LHW champion twice over, but lest we forget how Phil Davis bossed him and submitted him in an unbeaten vs. unbeaten prospect battle in 2010.

Getting to the point – not every prospect is going to be Jon Jones, Chris Weidman, or Khabib Nurmagomedov. It should be expected, particularly given the stark difference between UFC and boxing matchmaking, for young, relatively inexperienced fighters to suffer some in-cage setbacks and get outmatched. Neither Almeida nor Sterling is ready for title contention, but perhaps that’s a good thing. They both clearly have considerable room for improvement — namely, Almeida’s defensive flaws need to be shored up, while Sterling badly needs to improve his boxing and his bottom game — and they are young and have plenty of time to develop.

Of course, I must acknowledge that prospects can also not pan out for various reasons. Erick Silva had a competitive loss to Jon Fitch in 2012 and never got any better.┬áBrandon Thatch just about has one foot out the door as far as his UFC future is concerned. Brandon Vera … you know the rest. The fact of the matter is, one bad outcome for a prospect rarely is a clear indicator of what’s to come afterwards, because they’re not considered to be finished products.

Hype train derailed? Derailed implies the hype is over and the train is in ruins. For Sterling and Almeida, the hype train is just taking a slight detour and/or is forced to slow down. Their hype was deserved, and now they have to go back to the drawing board. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s just how the MMA fight game works, and we saw it on full display at the Mandalay Bay on Sunday.

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About the author
Mookie Alexander
Mookie Alexander

Mookie is a former Associate Editor for Bloody Elbow, leaving in August 2022 after ten years as a member of the staff. He's still lurking behind the scenes.

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