LOS ANGELES, August 4 – In the lead preliminary bout on Saturday’s UFC on FOX card at STAPLES Center, Nam Phan escaped with a split decision victory after a back-and-forth standup war with American Top Team’s Cole Miller.
Miller came out the aggressor in round one, using his superior reach and controlling the distance to score with kicks, jabs and lead left hooks. But Phan turned the tables in the second half of the round, popping Miller with hard combos.
Miller (18-8) seemed to outhustle Nam in the second stanza, landing shots but not necessarily packing much sizzle on them. In round three, Phan (18-11) again found his rhythm, repeatedly tagging Miller with hard combos and body shots. Miller’s work rate, meanwhile, dropped off significantly and he paid the price as judges gave the nod to Phan by scores of 29-28, 29-28 and 28-29.
PHIL DAVIS VS. WAGNER PRADO
On a night when light heavyweights were essentially auditioning for a shot at the UFC light heavyweight title, Phil Davis and Wagner Prado were deprived of a chance to impress after an inadvertent eye poke caused the referee to halt their fight and declare a no contest at the 1:28 mark of the opening round.
Prado, clearly bothered by Davis’s accidental foul, vehemently protested the stoppage and appeared to be on the verge of tears. Rather extraordinarily, the crowd also pleaded for a more definite resolution by erupting into chants of “Let him fight! Let him fight! Let him fight!”
It was hard to get a gauge on who might have won the scrap since the only significant blow was a solid right hand by Prado (8-0, 1 NC) that landed on Davis (9-1, 1 NC), who seemed unfazed.
There was much initial confusion amongst the media and fans as to why the referee opted to call the fight. Though the eye poke clearly affected the Brazilian, he expressed a willingness to fight on and the poke did not seem particularly egregious. One report circulating was that the ref asked Prado if he could see and was OK to fight. Prado reportedly said he was seeing double, but then, moments later, pronounced himself able to see just fine and was fine to continue on.
RANI YAHYA VS. JOSH GRISPI
We don’t see a lot of north-south chokes in MMA, but we were treated to a beautiful execution of the submission Saturday when Rani Yahya forced Josh Grispi to tap at 3:15 of round one.
Though Yahya is better suited to 135 pounds, and looked significantly smaller than the mighty Bostonian in their 145-pound contest, the Brazilian grappling wiz ate a few punches early before catching a Grispi (14-4) kick and scoring the takedown that completely changed the complexion of the undercard bout. Being underneath a 2007 Abu Dhabi world champion is not where anyone wants to be, and once Yahya passed Grispi’s guard it became apparent the former top contender was in deep trouble.
Yahya (17-7) has now notched 15 of his wins via submission, cementing his status as one of the game’s most feared grapplers.
The loss continues a disappointing slide for Grispi, who only a few years ago was touted as arguably the greatest threat to Jose Aldo’s featherweight throne. Grispi, a distant relative of former boxing icon Rocky Marciano who packs as much one-punch knockout power as anyone at 145, had been absent from the cage for more than a year as he supported his father’s ongoing fight against cancer.
Hear from Yahya following his big win
PHIL DE FRIES VS. OLI THOMPSON
After enduring a nauseating clinchfest in round one, fans and cageside reporters had ample reason to fear more of the same in round two. But Phil De Fries graciously spared them of further suffering, awakening the live crowd with a thorough beating of his fellow Brit in round two, sealing the deal with what was officially dubbed a “face crank” submission (it actually appeared to be a fairly standard rear naked choke) at 4:16 of the second frame.
De Fries (9-1, 1 NC), one of a growing number of Europeans now training under the vaunted Alliance MMA umbrella in nearby San Diego, got his party started with a lunging right hand that dropped Britain’s Strongest Man (Thompson won the 2006 competition of the same name).
While Thompson may excel at, say, dragging jet planes – his cardio appeared to betray him early in the first, coinciding with the blistering fistic assault De Fries unleashed upon him. Thompson (9-4) showed he is plenty tough, but as there is a reason the Gracie family loves chokes – even the toughest guys stop fighting when deprived of oxygen.
Hear what De Fries had to say after his victory
MICHIHIRO OMIGAWA VS. MANNY GAMBURYAN
If Ronda Rousey comes down with a bad case of Laryngitis Sunday morning, we’ll know why. Seated at cageside, the First Lady of MMA (and her mother) feverishly barked encouragement to teammate Manny Gamburyan and jumped for joy three rounds later as the Armenian featherweight escaped with a unanimous decision victory over Japanese veteran Michihiro Omigawa.
It was an impressive victory for Gamburyan, a Los Angeles area native, who survived being knocked down by a hard left early in round one and appeared winded down the stretch after stunning Omigawa with a left high kick and then burning a lot of energy trying in vain to finish Omigawa. You could say that Omigawa is merely the Japanese version of Gamburyan; both are stocky, built like fire hydrants and swing for the fences.
If you prefer damage inflicted to punches landed, you could have definitely have given round one to Omigawa – one judge did, in fact– but Gamburyan was much busier with a well-rounded striking arsenal and his suffocating takedowns also helped him claim rounds two and three.
Gamburyan outstruck Omigawa almost two to one. Judges rewarded him by scores of 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27.
ULYSSES GOMEZ VS. JOHN MORAGA
In a battle of debuting UFC flyweights, former Arizona State University wrestler John Moraga knocked Ulysses Gomez out with a blistering five-strike sequence at 3:46 of round one.
“I’m proud, man,” Moraga (11-1) told UFC commentator Joe Rogan post-fight. “I just wanted to make the UFC happy and hopefully set the tone for the rest of the night.”
The tussle between high-level grapplers (Gomez is a decorated brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu) never hit the mat as the hard-hitting Moraga started heating up midway of the opening round and stuffed two takedowns when Gomez tried to stifle his momentum. Moraga opened a small cut on Gomez’s forehead and attacked the body with hard punches and a kick to the ribs.
The end came when Moraga disengaged from the clinch, landed a potent left elbow and followed it up with several other clean shots, sending Gomez (9-3) slumping to the canvas and out cold.
Watch Moraga's post-fight interview