Back to square one.
After crushing defeats to current champion Jon Jones, former light heavyweight titleholders Mauricio Rua and Lyoto Machida are back on the warpath, both looking for a crack at the winner of the clash between "Bones" and Dan Henderson at UFC 151 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
These men will be spearheading the UFC on Fox 4: "Shogun vs. Vera," going down this Sat., Aug. 4, 2012, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.
Yesterday, we previewed the three bouts that comprise the FUEL TV portion of the "Prelims" under card right here. Today, we share breakdowns of the remaining three that will air on the same channel.
Let's get cracking:
145 lbs.: Cole Miller vs. Nam Phan
Miller (18-6), a 6'1" submission specialist, posted a decent record at lightweight, but could never seem to put more than two wins in a row together, and after a mauling at the hands of Matt Wiman, took one more fight in the division before making the drop. Unfortunately, he ran into TUF dark horse Steven Siler, himself 5'11," and wound up dropping a decision. Miller has proven to have one of the nastier submission games in the lower weights, but will need to improve his consistency, starting with beating Phan, if he wants to touch the top.
Aside from his robbery against and subsequent defeat of Leonard Garcia, the good ship Phan (17-10) has been taking on water; ha's lost six of his last nine fights (or five, if you want to discount Garcia) and most recently was on the end of one of the nastier beatings in recent memory against Jimy Hettes. In fact, he's lost 10-8 rounds in two of his last three fights. He's got an entertaining style and is one of the only men in the organization to consistently work the body, but he flat-out has to beat Miller.
I like Nam. I really do. He's a joy to watch, very skilled on the feet, and got completely shafted in the first Garcia fight.
But damn, he is completely useless from the bottom.
Both Hettes and Brown were able to unleash enormous ground-and-pound on Phan with little resistance, as he apparently has no idea how to control someone's posture from the bottom. Against someone with Cole's grappling ability, that's bad news.
In addition, Phan is giving up a ridiculous seven inches to Miller, meaning the standup won't be a walk in the park, either. Cole is incredibly inconsistent, but he has an excellent skillset, one that I don't see Phan's above-average striking and nonexistent bottom game overcoming. He probably won't get submitted, but Cole is most likely going to beat the snot out of him from top position all night.
Prediction: Miller by unanimous decision
205 lbs.: Phil Davis vs. Wagner Prado
Packing one of the best wrestling pedigrees in the sport, Davis (9-1) took the light-heavyweight division by storm, beating Brian Stann in just his fifth professional fight. After impressive submissions of Alexander Gustafsson and Tim Boetsch, Davis was the most-talked-about commodity at 205 behind Jon Jones. He's lost steam, however, due to an uninspiring decision win over Minotouro Nogueira and a one-sided, though not devastating, defeat at the hands of Evans. A win here would put him back on track, but he may need an impressive finish to get back into contendership.
Replacing Chad Griggs, the 6'4," 233 pound "Caldeirão" (8-0) was described by our associates at BloodyElbow as looking like "a cross between Mark Kerr, Mauricio ‘Shogun' Rua, and a gorilla." The Team Nogueira representative, who specializes in Muay Thai, has finished seven of his eight foes by knockout, six in the first round, and is considered one of Brazil's top prospects in the division.
Before you ask: yes, there is a reasonable chance of a dos Santos vs. Werdum situation occurring here. While it's pretty much the only punch he throws, Prado's lead right hook is very fast and devastating when it lands. In addition, his knees are brutal and his leg kicks are crippling. Add this to his incredibly size and a team whose takedown defense has been improving exponentially of late and you have a decent shot at the upset.
Not enough of one, though.
The fact is, Davis is simply unlike anyone Prado has ever faced. His striking is still decidedly "meh," but he brings a level of wrestling to the table that Prado has never encountered in his career, especially since, aside from an injury-nixed fight with TUF Brazil's Thiago Perpetuo, he's been matched up pretty darn soft.
There are two ways this fight goes: Prado catches him coming in, or Prado is stuck on his back helplessly for a long, unpleasant while. Phil is the superior BJJ player as well, by a fair margin, so Prado finishing him off his back is pretty damn unlikely.
If the original odds for dos Santos vs. Werdum crop up in Davis's favor, I'd consider it understating Prado's chances. But they aren't significant enough for me to pick him to win.
Prediction: Davis via unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Josh Grispi vs. Rani Yahya
That nickname is looking more and more appropriate as time goes by. After pulling off eight consecutive first-round finishes, including four in the first minute and a rear-naked choke of Mark Hominick, Grispi (14-3) was granted a shot at Jose Aldo at UFC 125. When Aldo got injured, Dustin Poirier stepped up to the plate and it's been all downhill from there. Poirier demolished Grispi over three rounds and George Roop, Grispi's intended rebound fight, throttled him before finishing him with a body shot. Few fighters in the UFC have fallen so fast, and a loss to Yahya would almost assuredly spell doom for his UFC career.
One of the best submission specialists in the sport, Yahya (16-7) is currently in the midst of a 1-3 streak, including a narrow loss to Takeya Mizugaki and an upset win over Mike Brown. He most recently lost to Chad Mendes and is replacing Pablo Garza against Grispi. He's submitted fourteen opponents, including titlists and title challegners like Mark Hominick, Yoshiro Maeda, and Eddie Wineland.
I just don't know what to make of Josh Grispi. He's young (23), huge, and obviously talented. His streak going into UFC 125 was fantastic and included very good stoppages of very good fighters.
But I just can't ignore how absolutely and undeniably he got his ass kicked by Poirier and Roop.
His standup, to be frank, was nonexistent. And he absolutely needs to use standup to win this fight.
As good as he is, Grispi is mincemeat if he tries to play around on the ground with Yahya. If he goes for a takedown, he will not survive. It's that simple.
That leaves his poor standup against Yahya's poor standup. Even there, I have to give the edge to Rani, who did a surprisingly competent Diego Nunes impression against Brown.
I think that's what decides it here. Boring striking match with Yahya barely edging it.
Prediction: Yahya via split decision
"Shogun" and Machida on a free card? Sign me up.
See you Saturday, Maniacs!
MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the main card action on fight night (Sat., Aug. 4, 2012), which is slated to air at 8 p.m. ET on FOX. The latest quick updates of the live action will begin to flow earlier than that around 5:00 p.m. ET with the "Prelims" bouts on FUEL TV.