UFC On Fox 4: Fuel TV Preliminary Card Dissection (Part One)

Miller x Phan

The Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, will house this Saturday's (August 4th) UFC on Fox 4 event. A light-heavyweight tilt pitting former 205-pound champ Mauricio "Shogun" Rua vs. Brandon Vera forms the headliner. Another former light-heavyweight title holder sees action on the card, as Lyoto Machida meets Ryan Bader in the co-main slot.

The 4-fight main card airs at 8:00 p.m. ET on Fox prior to the 6-piece preliminary card that kicks off at 5:00 p.m. ET on Fuel TV. We'll split the main card in half with Part One being addressed herein.

Part One

Cole Miller vs. Nam Phan
Phil Davis vs. Wagner Prado
Josh Grispi vs. Rani Yahya

Part Two

Manny Gamburyan vs. Michihiro Omigawa
Philip De Fries vs. Oli Thompson
Ulysses Gomez vs. John Moraga

Cole Miller (18-6) vs. Nam Phan (17-10)

Experienced but struggling featherweights battle atop the Fuel TV presentation: Miller has dropped 2 (Matt Wiman and Steven Siler by decision) of his last 3 turns (defeated T.J. O'Brien by submission) while Phan has a lone win (Leonard Garcia by decision) with 3 defeats (Mike Brown, Garcia and Jim Hettes by decision) in his last 4 outings.


More UFC on Fox 4 Dissections

Shogun vs. Vera | Machida vs. Bader | Lauzon vs. Varner
Swick vs. Johnson | Fuel TV Prelims (Part Two)


Size will be quite a notable disparity here, as Miller, who has a 73" reach, joins Pablo Garza and George Roop as the tallest UFC featherweights at 6'1" while Phan stands at 5'6" with a 69" reach. "Magrinho" is a longtime member of ATT and a dangerous submission specialist with a bevy of high-level experience for just 28-years-old; Phan is just as well traveled with a 27-fight record at age 29, though Miller's lengthy tenure in the Octagon affords better competition.

Continued in the full entry.

SBN coverage of UFC on Fox 4

The scouting report on Miller has always been top-notch grappling with average wrestling and sub-par striking. He's made encouraging strides with his stand up by tightening up his form and punches while maintaining better balance when throwing, but he still gets over-extended on his combinations, is plagued by a porous defense due to low and wide hand placement, isn't the quickest in his release and lacks zing on his delivery.

Phan, who forayed into martial combat through traditional Vietnamese arts, is a stellar kickboxer with a BJJ black belt and a 3-1 professional boxing record with 2 KO wins. His crisp and powerful hands are augmented nicely by a repertoire of roundhouse kicks, many of which are of the spinning variety, chambered side kicks and front kicks. His left hook and overhand right are vicious and responsible for the majority of his TKOs and knockdowns.

If a trend has developed in Phan's losses, his defensive grappling is the culprit. Barring the veritable screw-job decision against Garcia in their first match, Phan was taken down and handily out-grappled by Brown and Hettes, the latter of whom thoroughly dominated him in a one-sided affair. Brown, the former WEC featherweight champion, is a skilled wrestler in addition to his submission prowess and, with Hettes being on a dramatic rise, it's hard to tell if that loss signified Phan's weakness or Hettes' exorbitant potential.

Size and reach is typically a pivotal factor but Miller has never been able to capitalize on his ranginess by keeping his opponent on the end of his punches. Still, Phan will have to cross a lot of distance to get inside on the beanpole, which will play into Miller's hands if he plans on taking him down -- but Phan does indeed have the technical acumen (footwork, timing, head movement, angles and defense) to navigate through against Miller's somewhat clumsy boxing. Miller, however, is not a pedigreed wrestler and mostly relies on average level changes from outside or, using his exceptional leverage, basic trips and throws in the clinch. Phan isn't a monster with takedown defense but holds his own through footwork and agility.

The deciding factors of this match up should be Miller's fluidity in the Free-Movement Phase and Phan's Fight I.Q. Miller should be handily out-matched from a technical standpoint in the striking department but his length, creativity and aggressive BJJ award him the edge on the mat. Against Brown, Phan curiously gave up his back on 3 separate occasions, the most damaging of which enabled Brown to lurch ahead with a 10-8 rout in the opening stanza. Mistakes like that will spell doom against the gangly Miller and his web of prehensile appendages.

Along with the distinct gap in striking, the difference maker for my prediction is that Miller can't mirror the takedown threat that Brown's wrestling and Hettes' judo presented. While Miller's size could compensate, I'm more inclined to side with Phan's scorching boxing -- particularly his right cross and left hook -- finding holes in Miller's unkempt defense.

My Prediction: Nam Phan by TKO.

Phil Davis (9-1) vs. Wagner Prado (8-0)

In a befuddling downgrade from headliner to preliminary card fodder, the once-beaten Phil Davis, a perennial top-10er, draws UFC newcomer Wagner Prado, who was deemed the #1 light-heavyweight prospect on the 2012 Bloody Elbow Scouting Report. Prado is a devastating Muay Thai standout who's crushed 7 of his 8 foes by TKO; 6 in the 1st round. "Caldeiro" is a recent addition to the vaunted Team Nogueira.

Though Prado has a dozen Muay Thai bouts under his belt, he's only been training MMA for 6 years and fighting professionally since 2009. Due to his greenness, he's mostly a one-trick pony -- Prado is a blue belt in BJJ with average wrestling, though his gargantuan size and hulking physique serve him well where fundamentals cannot. It's not uncommon for a Brazilian debutante to be billed as a ferocious Thai striker, but make sure you scope out some tape on Prado to comprehend what a killer this cat really is.

Davis, a national champion wrestler at the NCAA Division 1 level, is also an imposing physical specimen and BJJ blue belt. He's sharpened up his striking and submission grappling at Alliance MMA under the tutelage of the Lloyd Irvin but, even though his submission game is considerably more threatening than your average blue belt, his elite wrestling is by far his true bread and butter. Rashad Evans has been the first and only opponent to stifle his overwhelming takedowns.

In addition to the general slight of demoting Davis to the undercard, this match-making is particularly mysterious as, style- and status-wise, main-eventer Brandon Vera would be an ideal measuring stick for Prado and Davis is a much more appealing opponent for "Shogun" to determine the next title challenger. Regardless, common sense would construe that a a fearsome but inexperienced striker will struggle against an elegant wrestling phenom like Davis.

Prado packs enough dynamite to end the fight at any time with a single shot, but his best weapons -- his kicks and knees -- will be greatly diminished. They'll be ultra-risky options against Davis' power doubles and low singles and Prado will be relegated to handling business with his hands. While he's still quite a formidable boxer and could tailor his strategy for a wrestler with an uppercut-heavy arsenal or time a knee while Davis is shooting, the odds don't favor it bearing fruit. However, Davis has to respect Prado's venom -- especially his low and high roundhouse kicks -- and be hell-bent on grounding the fight ASAP.

My Prediction: Phil Davis by submission.

Josh Grispi (14-3) vs. Rani Yahya (16-7)

Yahya, a decorated grappler and ADCC champion, is stepping in for Pablo Garza to battle "The Fluke" Grispi. Grispi earned that nickname in the WEC for being a young unknown with a penchant for spoiler performances, namely his trio of consecutive 1st-round stoppages in 2008-2009 of Mark Hominick (rear-naked choke), Micah Miller (TKO) and Jens Pulver (guillotine choke). Grispi is a strong finisher, having closed out 13 of his 14 wins with a balanced ratio (6 TKOs and 7 submissions).

Yahya is a tough and experienced Brazilian who's been immersed in impressive competition in the WEC and K-1 in addition to the UFC, fighting anywhere between 155 and 135 pounds. He contested Chase Beebe for the bantamweight strap at WEC 30 but a host of top-ranked opposition (Chad Mendes, Joseph Benavidez, Takeya Mizugaki) prevented him from rising up in his latest streak -- though he notched a big win over Mike Brown betwixt those defeats. Yahya is a stellar submission grappler who's made excellent strides with his takedown prowess.


Judo Chop: Chaining Takedowns with Rani Yahya


I can't help but see this as a 50/50 match up: Grispi will have a good amount of height (5'11" vs. 5'6") and reach (74" vs. 68") on Yahya but, though adept with submissions himself, probably can't match Yahya's grappling wizardry. Standing, Grispi's cleaner and more diverse with more power, and his reach advantage gives him the edge there.

Lately, Yahya has shown the feisty ability to adhere to and control his opponents while alternating relentlessly between takedown and submission attempts. He managed to pull this off on Brown, who is a better wrestler than Grispi but doesn't have the same leverage and length. Grispi's goal should be to avoid contact range with Yahya at all costs and penetrate his porous defense with punches, while Yahya will be determined to close range, clinch up and/or attack the hips to ground the fight. This should be a close one and might offer some entertaining grappling exchanges.

My Prediction: Rani Yahya by decision.

Star-divide


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