by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
The crowd in Atlanta’s Phillips Arena filed in early to catch the opening preliminary bouts for the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s first ever event in the city on a hot Saturday night in Georgia.

An early candidate for Fight of the Night at UFC 88 took place between lightweights Kurt Pellegrino and Thiago Tavares as the two fighters put on a tremendous match-up of skill and heart.

The first round opened with Pellegrino landing a huge punch that put Tavares down, but the Brazilian returned to his feet only to end up right back on the ground as another big punch landed flush on his face.

Tavares showed great heart in staying in the fight, getting out of tough positions as two separate cuts opened on his face.

In the second round, as the fighters battled on the ground, Pellegrino locked on a tight armbar and when replayed in slow motion, it seemed that Tavares tapped out from the submission, but the referee didn’t see it during the fight and the bout continued.

The remainder of the fight saw both fighters leave everything in the cage as they exchanged punches, knees, takedowns and positions all over the Octagon.

When it was all said and done, Pellegrino picked up the win while Tavares walks out with little shame after showing great spirit sticking in the fight after a tough first round.

Tim Boetsch had a successful return to the Octagon after suffering his first loss in the UFC in April by dispatching of newcomer Michael Patt in the first round.

While Patt seemed content to play a defensive game, Boetsch attacked at every moment and eventually the gameplan paid off after he landed a huge right hand that sent his opponent crashing to the mat.

The Pennsylvania native followed up with a few more big punches on the ground, before referee Herb Dean stopped the fight, declaring Tim Boetsch the winner by TKO.

“I’m pumped,” Boetsch stated following his win. “I trained real hard to get an explosive finish like this.”

Jason MacDonald gave Jason Lambert a rude welcome to the 185-pound division, as the Canadian fighter pulled off a second-round submission in an impressive performance.

MacDonald pulled off a couple of textbook double-leg takedowns in the fight, while displaying a dominant ground game.

The second round saw MacDonald take Lambert down before moving to mount and then locking on a fight ending rear naked choke to give him the win.

“I knew he was getting tired from making the cut to 185 pounds, so I knew if I could take it into the later rounds I would get him,” said MacDonald after his win over Lambert.

The opening bout of the night for the raucous crowd in Atlanta put Team Quest fighter Ryo Chonan against Roan Carneiro in a rematch from a fight the two fighters had previously.

The first round saw the most action of the fight with Carneiro advancing position before locking on an oma plata, but Chonan survived and spent the majority of the remainder of the round keeping his opponent in his half guard.

The following two rounds saw little action as both fighters went for takedowns and a ground and pound attack, with neither doing any serious damage to the other fighter.

When it was all over, Ryo Chonan picked up his second victory over Carneiro, getting a split decision win over the American Top Team fighter.

UFC 88 Preliminary Results:
-Kurt Pellegrino def. Thiago Tavares by Unanimous Decision, R3
-Tim Boetsch def. Michael Patt by TKO (Strikes) at 2:03, R1
-Jason MacDonald def. Jason Lambert by Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 1:20, R2
-Ryo Chonan def. Roan Carneiro by Split Decision, R3