Following a weekend with no live Ultimate Fighting Championship programming, addicts of the eight-sided cage will once again get their fix on Saturday, when the promotion holds UFC on Fox 4 “Shogun vs. Vera” at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Fox’s flagship network will broadcast four fights in primetime, topped by a light heavyweight title eliminator between Mauricio Rua and Brandon Vera. Prior to the TV bash, however, six undercard bouts will warm up the cage on Fuel TV. Here are five reasons to catch the UFC on Fox 4 prelims:
Ulysses Gomez’s flyweight scrap with John Moraga was only recently upgraded to broadcast status on the official fight card. The bout is certainly worth a watch and would have made this list had it been marked for broadcast prior to the time of writing.
Sherdog Fantasy MMA: UFC on Fox 4 Free Fan Pick’Em
Return of ‘Mr. Wonderful’
Oh, Master Pink Shorts, how we have missed thee.
During Phil Davis’ rise through the light heavyweight ranks of the UFC, you would have been hard-pressed to find anyone saying he was not one of the brightest prospects in the entire sport. A February decision loss to former divisional kingpin Rashad Evans should not alter that perception of “Mr. Wonderful.”
A four-time NCAA All-American wrestler, Davis, 27, owns the total package athletically. He has speed and power to burn, and, as is often the case with high-level wrestlers, his standup is beginning to catch up to his superior abilities on the mat. Once this guy completely settles in and finds himself as a fighter and not just an athlete, I think we can expect to see more finishes and violence on display. As he continues to round out his skills and refine his strategies in the cage, there is little doubt in my mind that he will make another run at title contention in the coming year, provided he stays healthy.
Davis will not have an easy first step on his climb back up the light heavyweight ladder, as he faces unbeaten Brazilian Wagner Prado. Replacing an injured Chad Griggs, Prado makes his UFC debut riding an eight-fight winning streak that includes seven victories by form of knockout.
It may not be pretty, but Philip De Fries’ meeting with Oli Thompson could be a lot of fun.
Thompson is a hard-swinging 32-year-old who formerly competed quite successfully as a strongman, winning the title of Britain’s Strongest Man in 2006 and qualifying for the World’s Strongest Man competition in 2008. Thompson made his MMA debut in 2009 and captured the Ultimate Challenge MMA heavyweight strap last year before signing with the UFC to face Shawn Jordan. The two big men squared off at UFC on FX 2, battering each other in a back-and-forth fight that finally ended in a second-round technical knockout defeat for Thompson.
De Fries also found himself in an exciting fight during his last in-cage appearance, though it was the type of exciting that every fighter probably dreads. The 26-year-old charged ahead in the opening moments of his UFC on Fuel TV 1 meeting with Stipe Miocic but found himself quickly moving backward after he was clipped by a hard right hand from the American prospect. The end came soon for De Fries, who was knocked out in just 43 seconds.
Primarily a submission specialist, De Fries will now have to navigate both the heavy blows and the brute strength of Thompson in their upcoming clash. Can De Fries overcome Thompson’s power and catch him with something on the floor?
Two skilled veterans going at it to avoid back-to-back losses: sign me up.
Cole Miller and Nam Phan both need a win, but only one of them will get it. The other may not receive a pink slip, but a loss would undoubtedly serve as a serious setback.
Miller has lost two of three and was recently beaten to the punch continually by “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 14 veteran Steven Siler. Phan sits in the same boat. I am not going to count his December 2010 loss to Leonard Garcia against him for obvious reasons, but I will say he was thoroughly out-grappled by Jim Hettes in his last outing at UFC 141.
With 51 career bouts between them, which man will avoid consecutive defeats and prove to the UFC brass that he has plenty of gas left in his tank?
Contenders to Cut List
Following a stint on “The Ultimate Fighter 5” and a 2-2 run in the UFC as a lightweight, Manny Gamburyan found the featherweight waters of the WEC quite favorable, earning decisions in his first two appearances at 145 pounds before knocking out former champion Mike Thomas Brown in April 2010. Unfortunately for “The Anvil,” he could not do the same to reigning king Jose Aldo, who knocked Gamburyan cold later that year. Two more losses would follow for Gamburyan in his 2011 return to the Octagon, as he was outpointed by Tyson Griffin and then Diego Nunes.
Michihiro Omigawa enters the cage following a somewhat similar arc. The judoka fought twice for the UFC as a lightweight from 2007 to 2008, losing both bouts and receiving his release. Omigawa found himself on home soil in the coming years, however, dropping to featherweight and winning eight times over a nine-fight stretch. Nevertheless, the 36-year-old has posted just a 1-3 record since his return to the UFC last year. Can either man reverse his momentum and earn a much-needed win?
Fluke or Finished
Josh Grispi’s nickname is becoming less ironic by the fight. During his WEC run, “The Fluke” was on fire, taking out Mark Hominick, Micah Miller, Jens Pulver and L.C. Davis in less than seven minutes combined. By contrast, his UFC run has been disastrous.
Grispi was supposed to challenge Aldo for the featherweight title at UFC 125 in 2011 before “Scarface” withdrew due to injury. In his place stepped newcomer Dustin Poirier, who beat Grispi from pillar-to-post for three rounds on New Year’s Day. After recovering from a jaw injury sustained in that bout, Grispi returned to the cage last June, only to be dominated and knocked out with a paralyzing body shot courtesy of George Roop.
Still just 23 years old, Grispi is by no means past his prime. However, he can ill-afford another loss -- especially considering the manner in which his last two defeats have transpired. Now more than a year removed from his last appearance, Grispi squares off with another submission ace in Rani Yahya. Can “The Fluke” right his ship and get back in the win column?