Early start for UFC on FOX undercard

The UFC on FOX festivities on Saturday start early, at 5 p.m. ET on Fuel TV. Here’s a look at the fighters who will be battling in the Octagon before the main card:

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

In a featherweight clash, the American Top Team product Miller takes on Phan, a recent addition to Urijah Faber’s Team Alpha Male camp.

Miller, 28, struggled in his 145-pound debut in March, dropping a decision to Steven Siler. Miller racked up some impressive wins as a lightweight, including submissions over Ross Pearson, Dan Lauzon and Jorge Gurgel.

The Brazilian jiujitsu brown belt under Ricardo Liborio desperately needs a strong showing against Phan to prove he still has a place in the UFC featherweight division.

Phan, 29, lost a unanimous decision to Jim Hettes in December. Having lost five of his past seven fights, the Vietnamese-American is also facing a potential do-or-die situation if he comes up short Saturday night.

A Brazilian jiujitsu and karate brown belt, Phan is a well-rounded mixed martial artist, but a lack of wrestling continues to hinder his win-loss record. The move to California to train with Team Alpha Male should help Phan round out the weakest area of his game.

It should be a tooth-and-nail affair between two fighters hungry to stay on the UFC roster. Miller’s experience competing at a higher level should pay off as he wins a hard-fought decision.

Verdict: Miller via decision

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

One of the top light-heavyweight prospects in the UFC returns as Davis takes on Brazilian sensation Prado.

Davis, 27, a highly decorated wrestler, has continued to develop his game at Alliance MMA under Lloyd Irvin, where his training camp has coincided with headliner Brandon Vera.

A four-time NCAA Division I All-American, Davis has dominated most of his UFC opponents since his February 2010 debut, including wins over Brian Stann, Alexander Gustafsson, Tim Boetsch and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.

Davis is looking to rebound from his only career blemish — a unanimous decision loss against former light-heavyweight champion Rashad Evans in January.

A muay thai striker, Prado, 25, debuts with a perfect record in eight professional fights, including seven knockouts.

Discovered by the Nogueira brothers, Prado should prove to be a stern test for Davis as he’s a far more decorated striker and Davis struggled with Evans’ boxing. However, keeping the fight standing will prove nearly impossible against the American.

Davis’ pedigree as an outstanding wrestler will carry him to a one-sided victory as he closes the distance and takes his opponent down with ease, grinding his way to an impressive decision.

Verdict: Davis via decision

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

An exciting featherweight scrap pits former title contender Grispi against Brazilian submission ace Yahya.

Grispi, 23, was on the fast track to a title shot before he dropped successive fights to Dustin Poirier and George Roop, snapping an impressive WEC winning streak that included victories over Mark Hominick, Jens Pulver and L.C. Davis.

A strong submission grappler with exceptional conditioning, Grispi is hoping to erase the memory of his recent setbacks.

Yahya, 27, a second-degree Brazilian jiujitsu black belt, is one of the most accomplished submission magicians in the 145-pound class. A former Abu Dhabi Combat Club world champion, Yahya has amassed marquee mixed martial arts wins over Hominick, Yoshiro Maeda, Eddie Wineland and Mike Thomas Brown. Most recently, Yahya dropped a unanimous decision to Chad Mendes.

The Brazilian will look to bring the fight into his world on the mat, while Grispi will need to utilize his strikes to keep Yahya at bay. Grispi has the submission skills to fight his way out of bad positions on the mat, and his stand-up will likely be the difference maker as he outpoints Yahya with crisp combinations over the course of 15 minutes.

Verdict: Grispi via decision

Phil De Fries (8-1) vs. Oli Thompson (9-3)

A pair of British heavyweights look to return to the win column as De Fries and Thompson face off in preliminary action.

De Fries, 26, a Brazilian jiujitsu purple belt, has utilized his ground game to carry him to seven career wins, including submissions of Darren Towler, Colin Robinson and Stav Economou. In his promotional debut, De Fries won a unanimous decision against compatriot Rob Broughton before being knocked out in his first career loss this past February, succumbing to a barrage of punches from Stipe Miocic at the 43-second mark of the first round.

Thompson, 32, is a former strongman and Ultimate Challenge MMA heavyweight champion. The heavy-handed Brit was finished by Shawn Jordan in the second round of his UFC debut in March.

A vastly superior submission player, De Fries will look to bring the fight to the ground where he’ll waste little time sinking in a fight-ending choke.

Verdict: De Fries via Submission, Round 1

Manny Gamburyan (11-7) vs. Michihiro Omigawa (13-11-1)

In a showcase of international featherweight hopefuls, Armenia’s Gamburyan collides with Japan’s Omigawa.

Gamburyan, 31, is a talented judoka with a third dan black belt. A student of Gokor Chivichyan and Gene LeBell’s Hayastan MMA Academy, the older cousin of UFC veteran Karo Parisyan needs to bounce back from three straight setbacks, including back-to-back decision losses to Diego Nunes and Tyson Griffin.

Gamburyan has shown sparks of great promise throughout his career, knocking out Jorge Santiago in an August 2003 bout and racking up a hat trick of WEC wins, including a knockout of former champion Mike Brown, which earned him a shot at featherweight king Jose Aldo.

Omigawa, 36, is also a third dan judo black belt, making this a fascinating stylistic matchup. A standout in his native Japan, Omigawa has racked up key wins over L.C. Davis, Nam Phan, Marlon Sandro, Hatsu Hioki and Hiroyuki Takaya.

Omigawa is just 1-3 since joining the UFC, and he’s eager to impress after a unanimous decision loss to Yuri Alcantara in January.

On paper, this fight is as close as it gets. Omigawa’s world-class experience and more accurate striking could prove pivotal as he squeaks out a razor-thin decision.

Verdict: Omigawa via decision

Ulysses Gomez (9-2) vs. John Moraga (10-1)

Kicking off the preliminary card is a flyweight bout between promotional newcomers as the Brazilian jiujitsu brown belt Gomez meets the Moraga, a former Arizona State University wrestler.

Gomez, 29, a member of Marc Laimon’s Cobra Kai school, has established himself under the Tachi Palace Fights banner, earning wins over a number of top flyweights.

Moraga, 28, is based at Arizona Combat Sports, where he trains alongside a multitude of tough wrestlers. His only professional loss was a decision to top contender John Dodson in December 2010.

Gomez, who has been more successful against a higher level of competition, should rely on his big fight experience to earn a competitive decision.

Verdict: Gomez via decision