A Closer Look At Cody Garbrandt Vs. Thomas Almeida

This Sunday night Cody Garbrandt (8-0) continues his path from regional standout, to UFC prospect, to potential superstar in his main event bout against the very legit, very dangerous Thomas Almeida (20-0).  Sunday’s card is a huge one for me personally because it features 3 PinnacleFC vets including Garbrandt (obviously), the debut of Adam Milstead and Paul Felder.  We’re hopping right into this one because I can’t think of any other important filler like details to add.

Here is why this is Garbrandt’s toughest fight to date (read ever):

Almeida hails from the Chute Boxe academy which for you new schoolers is a notorious camp from Brazil that have produced some absolute fucking killers such as Wanderlei Silva, Anderson Silva, Mauricio Rua and more, but I’m refusing to re-search after accidentally closing my browser window.   The Chute boxe camp is known for their balls out aggression, classic muay thai approach and straight forward kill or be killed mindset.  One could argue that Almeida is the most technically proficient striker from that camp in a long, long time.

Almeida's strengths are based around a few key qualities; pressure, fundamentals, creative problem solving.  His weapon selection is very logical and effective; if he’s in low he looks to hit the body, if he has miscalculated the range he covers with the a short shot like an elbow or knee and is defensively responsible for such an offensive minded guy. When people describe his style as “technical” this is what they are referring too.  What really stands out to me is how well he does the little things like sliding his head off center and moves through the different ranges with respect to each. These are the marks of a quality, well designed offense.

Divide and conquer:

The easiest way to do this is divide him in half. Which is pretty easy because his right side is centered around the straight right hand.  The left side is more creative, switching between quick reactive knees and lead uppercut, hook combinations you just don’t see enough of in the current MMA arsenal.   One thing I like that he does very well, is that he anticipates where you are going to hide when he starts shooting.  His lead right hand forces most guys to slip or duck away from it and when you do he comes up the other side with either a lead uppercut or a short quick knee.  You may get away from the first shot but the initial attack gets you to move into range for attack sequence two and this in essence, is the art of striking.  The right hand is the focus but he has developed other tools around it to compensate for the inevitable misses he’ll accrue over the course of the fight.

You’re probably reading all of this and thinking “fack”.

There aren’t many kinks in the armor but I have noticed a few areas I would mark as potentially vulnerable.  One is his lead off right hand we were discussing earlier, he moves his head with the shot nicely and doesn’t load up on it so it is harder to predict but he has the habit of leading with it over and over again.   Anytime you become predictable in this sport it can be exploited.  If your face and body are always moving into the same spaces, over and over, you can eventually be timed and lead into a hard shot while moving into the space that was previously “safe”.  Think of it like rolling a grenade into a bomb shelter.  He also tends to over pursues when he’s trying to close in after a hard lead off shot.  This can be problematic in these moment because he, like everyone else, tends to abandon all of the aforementioned fundamentals which means that he is easier to hit and/or take down.

In a perfect world, here is my strategy to defuse this problem using the expanding skillsets that Garbrandt possesses.  First and foremost, No Love needs to uses his jab to disrupt Almeida’s pressure and rhythm from the gate.  A lead, rear attack takes more time to arrive than a straight, lead jab because it travels a longer distance.  This is step 1 and is a boxing basic “Be first”. 

Step 2: when Garbrandt fires off his own straight right hand, he needs to be certain his head is off line and he is tracking Almeida’s counter and follow up to the left side angle. Sounds like alot, because to civilians it is, but in the fighting world this should be talked about everyday. 

Step 3:  In my opinion, the best time to hit Almeida is when he is committing to a volley of pretty and sequenced strikes.  Normally they come is sets of 3s and 4s which is great, but he - like everyone else- gets a little greedy and comes out of the bunker for too long and that’s when you get tagged.  Once Garbrandt feels Almeida committing to a combination -and trust me, he’ll know- he can find gaps in the attack and lace some hard counters through the on-coming traffic. 

Step 4:  Allow Almeida to carry the brunt of the risk by committing to counter punching instead of being the guy on the lead.  Almeida eats hard shots in every fight, even after doing all of the above and do you know why? It’s really fucking hard and really fucking risky to be the guy constantly pushing out the offense.  You’ll get the glory but you’re going to walk through more than a few “rock in the face” moments to get there.  Counter punching is statistically safer and easier but not exactly the most heralded approach. If Garbrandt slides back off of the straight right hand leads, he’ll have plenty of opportunities to bang home hard hooks and counter right hands of his own. This is where the fight is won or lost in my opinion.

Garbrandt is definitely faster and has more pop on his shots which means that he should read Almeida’s initial movements easy enough but it is the decisions he makes during and after the exchanges that will determine the outcome.  He’s fast enough to slide in behind a solid set up, land his set and exit on the angle and Almeida will be stuck trying to time him on the way in (which rarely works by the way) but this comes with risk.  So using the threat of the takedown, a handful of careful lead off exchanges and solid pot-shotting style counter punches throughout the course of the early rounds, Almeida should incur even more damage than usual which will bring on the eventual over aggression and walk him face first into the homegrown straight right hand that got all of us here since the beginning.

It may sound like alot but that’s why you’re reading it here and not warming up in an hour at the MGM.

I’ll roll the dice and go with my friend and former beltholder: Garbrandt TKO Rd. 3