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Fight Night Las Vegas: Reasons to Watch

PITTSBURGH, PA - FEBRUARY 21:  <a href='../fighter/cody-garbrandt'>Cody Garbrandt</a> celebrates his knockout victory over <a href='../fighter/Augusto-Mendes'>Augusto Mendes</a> in their bantamweight bout during the <a href='../event/UFC-Silva-vs-Irvin'>UFC Fight Night </a>event at Consol Energy Center on February 21, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)Team Alpha Male is one of the hottest teams in mixed martial arts today.

Urijah Faber is set to challenge for the bantamweight title at UFC 199; Paige VanZant has taken over the world on Dancing with the Stars; and Cody Garbrandt is set to headline Fight Night Las Vegas at Mandalay Bay this Sunday night.

Garbrandt (8-0) puts his undefeated record on the line against No. 7-ranked bantamweight Thomas Almeida (21-0), who is one of the hottest prospects in all of MMA. This amazing five-round main event is the No. 1 reason to watch Fight Night Las Vegas.

RELATED CONTENT: Under the radar fights at Fight Night Vegas | Cheat Sheet: Your guide to the fight card | UFC FIGHT PASS spotlighting exciting Aljamain Sterling

This is a showdown between two projected future title contenders meeting at the optimal time. Both Garbrandt and Almeida are hungry and dangerous.

“No Love” has finished seven of his wins by knockout, which is good for an 87.5 percent clip. He is aggressive, lightning fast and is taking a huge step up in competition against Almeida.

The Brazilian wonder is 24 years old and has earned three performance bonuses in his four-fight UFC career. He’s finished his last three by knockout and had a Fight of the Year candidate against Brad Pickett in July 2015.

Almeida’s striking rate is three times higher than the UFC average. He lands 6.82 significant strikes per minute and lands 50 percent of the strikes that he throws. A product of the famed Chute Boxe system, the Muay Thai striker has some of the best hands and kicks in the division, and Garbrandt will be tested to the max in this one.
 

Rest of the main card

In the co-main event, former bantamweight champion Renan Barao returns to the Octagon after almost a year out of action. He is making his debut at featherweight against the ultra-exciting Jeremy Stephens in a potential Fight of the Night contender.

Barao (35-3-0, 1 NC) has long been rumored to make the move up to 145 and his new home could provide the fight week comfort necessary for the Brazilian to return to championship form.

CHICAGO, IL - JULY 25: (R-L) Renan Barao of Brazil kicks <a href='../fighter/TJ-Dillashaw'>TJ Dillashaw</a> in their UFC bantamweight championship bout during the UFC event at the United Center on July 25, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)Before losing to TJ Dillashaw at UFC 173 in their first championship battle, Barao was considered one of the pound-for-pound best fighters on the planet. His speed and power, combined with a dangerous and attacking submission game on the ground creates quite the tall order for opponents inside the Octagon.

Stephens (24-12) is a 22-fight UFC veteran who has just started to hit his stride. “Lil Heathen” knocked out Dennis Bermudez in 2015 in spectacular fashion before falling to super contender Max Holloway by decision in his last outing.

Expect Stephens to push the pace and bring the fight to Barao, who is the most dangerous when his opponent has an attacking style.

Another scrap to watch on the main card is hard-hitting Paul Felder against the ageless Josh Burkman, which opens up the action on the FS1 main card at 9 pm ET.

Felder (11-2) captured a much-needed win by submission against Daron Cruickshank last time out after a disappointing two-fight losing streak. “The Irish Dragon” was one of the hottest prospects in the UFC in early 2015 before the setbacks, but now has rededicated himself to his craft and is feeling better than ever.

Burkman (29-12, 1 NC) is also coming off a win after a slight skid of his own. “The People’s Warrior” has earned one Fight of the Night honor since his return to the UFC and is never in a boring fight.

FS1 prelims

The women’s bantamweight division has never been deeper or full of contenders chomping at the bit to get a crack at the title.

LAS VEGAS, NV - JAN. 31: (R-L) <a href='../fighter/Sara-McMann'>Sara McMann</a> punches <a href='../fighter/Miesha-Tate'>Miesha Tate</a> in their women's bantamweight on January 31, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Josh Hedges)Directly outside the Top Five of the division sits No. 6 Sara McMann (a former title challenger) and No. 7 Jessica Eye, who meet in the FS1 prelims main event for the right to stay in the race for the title.

This is a classic matchup of striker vs. grappler. McMann (8-3) is a former U.S. Olympic wrestler and Eye (11-4, 1 NC) is one of the best boxers in the division. Eye is coming off a pair of losses to current champ Miesha Tate and No. 5-ranked Julianna Pena, while McMann has lost two in a row as well, to Tate and current No. 1 contender Amanda Nunes.

These two top-ranked fighters are only fighting the best and should put on a great show for free on FS1.



UFC FIGHT PASS prelims

The featured bout on the UFC FIGHT PASS prelims between No. 4-ranked bantamweight Aljamain Sterling and No. 8-ranked Bryan Caraway is perhaps the most intriguing fight on the entire card.

Sterling (12-0) has been asking for a fight with Caraway (unleashing a barrage of top notch trash talk in the process) for a long time and finally gets his wish. The Long Island native has been a wrecking ball in the UFC, posting four wins and three finishes.

 Watch all the action live on UFC FIGHT PASS Sunday night at 6pm ET

Caraway (20-8) has only lost once (Raphael Assuncao) in the past three years and is looking to make a statement against a very boisterous Sterling. This is an interesting stylistic matchup; it pits two wrestlers against each other who have a combined 21 submission wins between them.

Don’t miss all the action beginning on UFC FIGHT PASS Sunday night at 6pm/3pm ETPT before the fights go down on FS1 beginning at 7pm/4pm ETPT. The six-bout main card begins at 9pm/6pm ETPT.

Matt Parrino is a digital producer and writer for UFC.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MattParrinoUFC

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