One of the traditional events on the UFC calendar is Memorial Day Weekend in Las Vegas. While not a pay-per-view event like usual, the Octagon is back this weekend, on Sunday this time, for UFC Fight Night 88 on FOX Sports 1. The event is headlined by undefeated bantamweights Thomas Almeida and Cody Garbrandt. Below are our studs, value plays and fighters to avoid when making your fantasy rosters for Sunday's event.
Abel Trujillo ($11,200)
Abel Trujillo has the highest salary of the fighters competing on the UFC Fight Night 88 card, and it shouldn't be a surprise for many reasons. Most of the bouts are evenly matched, but Trujillo will have an advantage as he fights a replacement fighter taking the fight on short notice making his UFC debut in Jordan Rinaldi. Trujillo has put up a solid 5-2 UFC record (with one no contest, though one of his wins was actually a loss that was overturned), with his only official losses coming to Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson, both of whom are top-five ranked fighters. All of his official UFC wins have come by stoppage, and he is a dangerous and powerful fighter. Rinaldi has a solid 12-4 record, but he gets a tall order in making his UFC debut. Trujillo is a very good bet to score a finish and he is our top play for the card.
Aljamain Sterling ($11,000)
Aljamain Sterling enters Sunday night with an undefeated record, a new contract with the UFC, title shot aspirations, and the fight he wanted as he takes on Bryan Caraway. Sterling is a huge favorite in the bout, and with good reason as he is a perfect 13-0 with nine finishes, and three of his four UFC wins have been finishes. Caraway is a tough and durable fighter, but has garnered a reputation of late of turning down fights in what people seem to see as him trying to maintain his positioning in the division. If Caraway wants to fight for a title, he can't turn down fighting Sterling. That may be a mistake for him. Sterling is young and hungry, and the 135-pound division is thriving with talent. He may be the most talented prospect, though the main event fighters on Sunday have something to say about that. He is just too talented for Caraway, and I expect Sterling to have an impressive showing on Sunday. He's an excellent play.
Jeremy Stephens ($9,300)
With so many close match-ups on this card, it is hard to find a lot of value as I see the true underdogs having trouble picking up wins. That is why I'm going with Jeremy Stephens as a value play despite the fact he is fighting former bantamweight champion Renan Barao. Barao is moving up to 145 pounds as he is now going to have trouble making 135 pounds with the IV ban, and he is someone who has looked different in recent fights. Make of that what you will, but there have been noticeable changes in a lot of fighters, and Barao is one of those. Stephens has just a .500 record in the UFC, but he has been around a long time and is capable of making a solid run in the division. He has the knockout power and is known for exciting fights, and Barao has been taking beatings lately and not looked himself. Stephens is a sneaky play to score an upset and has some solid value.
Chris Camozzi ($8,900)
Chris Camozzi is another good value fighter as he looks to score his third straight win. He takes on Vitor Miranda, who has won three straight, but Camozzi is the toughest opponent he has fought in the UFC. Miranda is also getting older, but he is coming off an impressive win. Camozzi is also coming off an impressive win, and a rather quick one. This fight should be closer in the betting odds, but the longer odds make Camozzi's salary a very good one to look at. Both men are very good kickboxers, but Miranda is a big middleweight, and he fades late. That could open the door for Camozzi to attack late. Camozzi has dangerous muay Thai and is very underrated despite his lackluster UFC record. Both men are on solid streaks, and Camozzi has a very solid chance at getting the upset. He is worth looking at for some value.
FIGHTERS TO AVOID
Jorge Masvidal ($9,600)
Jorge Masvidal is a very good fighter, somewhat underrated by a lot. He took former lightweight champion Benson Henderson to the wire but came up short in his last fight. He has a 6-3 record in the UFC, but he is a fighter you should avoid for a simple reason- he isn't much of a finisher. He has 16 wins by decision out of his 29 career wins, and he has only scored two stoppage wins in the last six-plus years. He is also facing a very dangerous opponent in Lorenz Larkin, who is better on the feet in a pure kickboxing term. Masvidal is more well-rounded, but he tends to abandon his solid takedown game to get into a battle on the feet. That will cost him against Larkin. I like Larkin in this fight, and I don't see anything but a decision happening. I would avoid Masvidal at his salary. If his salary was lower, he'd have good value, though.
Jake Collier ($9,100)
Jake Collier is 1-2 in the UFC and is on the chopping block coming into Sunday's card. He has to get a win. That might be a challenge against the debuting Alberto Uda, who is 9-0 with eight finishes in his career. Uda is a crafty striker, and a dangerous one at that, and has very good submissions. Collier eats a lot of punches, and that cost him in his last fight, which was a knockout loss to Dongi Yang. Collier is solid but unspectacular, and he hasn't shown that he has what it takes to compete at the UFC level right now. Perhaps with a few more fights under his belt, and a loss here would send him back to the regional circuit. His prior UFC bouts make it hard for him to be trusted on a fantasy roster, much less against a dangerous foe. He is a solid pass in my eyes.
RYAN FREDERICK- Aljamain Sterling ($11,000), Alberto Uda ($10,300), Thomas Almeida ($10,200), Jessica Eye ($9,500), Chris Camozzi ($8,900)
I'm starting my roster off with Aljamain Sterling. I think he is a future champion at 135 pounds, and he is getting the big push this week. I expect him to finish Bryan Caraway and to be impressive in doing so. Alberto Uda is making his UFC debut, but with eight finishes in nine career wins, an undefeated record, and a struggling opponent, I see him getting a finish. Thomas Almeida is in his first main event, and he does have a tough opponent in Cody Garbrandt. I see him finishing Garbrandt, and even if it goes five rounds, that's a lot of points that can be scored. Jessica Eye is also on my roster. She is hungry and is better on the feet than her opponent, Sara McMann, who hasn't shown much in the UFC. I like Eye to get the win. Last on my team is Chris Camozzi, who I see landing a barrage of knees in the clinch on Vitor Miranda and getting a stoppage win.
PAUL FONTAINE- Abel Trujillo ($11,200), Paul Felder ($10,800), Renan Barao ($10,100), Cody Garbrandt ($9,200), Bryan Caraway ($8,400)
Many of these matches are very close and extremely tough to call and the main event is one of those. I'm taking a chance but I needed two underdogs to fit some guys on the team that I really like. Both guys are finishers and both have faced a similar level of UFC competition. Both are 24 years old. It's really almost a pick 'em in my eyes so I'm getting a bit of a break on the price for Garbrandt in that sense. I'm much more confident about Barao. He probably should've been fighting at 145 all along but didn't want to be in the same weight class as Jose Aldo, who was the champion and his training partner. He shouldn't lose any of his speed and may have even better cardio as a result of not having such a drastic weight cut. And Jeremy Stephens is not getting any younger. I really like Paul Felder in his fight over Josh Burkman and feel like this is a glorified enhancement match for Felder, who had lost two in a row last year before rebounding with a submission win in his last fight. Trujillo is the biggest lock on the card, in my opinion and his price showed it. He has just two losses in the last 5 years and they've been to Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov. He's facing a debuting fighter with 4 losses in the same time period to people who literally aren't in the same league. My last pick is Bryan Caraway who is a big underdog in his fight against Aljamain Sterling. I see Caraway frustrating Sterling with his wrestling and maybe sneaking in a submission win or a decision.
PEACH MACHINE- Aljamain Sterling ($11,000), Renan Barao ($10,100), Lorenz Larkin ($9,800), Tarec Saffiedine ($9,700), Cody Garbrandt ($9,200)
Barao hasn't fought in a while which is good. He needed to take some time off after two decimations by Dillashaw. I think he'll be back in old form and destroy Stephens. I'm taking Sterling because I hate Caraway. I also feel like Sterling is gonna be a star soon. Larkin is in top shape at 170 and I'm not sure how Masvidal is going to fare moving up. He's done so before, but I'm leery. Saffiedine is facing Rick Story who has been out action for a while. He hasn't fought since 2014. Saffiedine dispatched of Ellenberger, who I consider a better version of Rick Story, so I'm taking Tarec. Garbrandt is my "make him fit" pick because I don't like anyone else. I like Garbrandt more than Almeida so I'm fine with it. Let's go Ascension!