The UFC's debut in state of South Carolina is in the books, and as has become tradition a weak card on paper delivered some pretty good quality action. Having lost the co-main event rematch between John Lineker and Rob Font, there really weren't any high-stakes fights on the card outside of the headliner. All the same we were able to enjoy some solid scraps. Without further ado, let's get down to what the hell happened!
The Main Card
Moicano does not survive the zombie invasion, goes down in under a minute
#12 Chan Sung "Korean Zombie" Jung defeated #5 Renato "Moicano" Carneiro via TKO, round 3, 0:58
As fun as the nickname and the wars Jung has been through are, it's sometimes easy to forget that underneath it all he developed into a high level, technical fighter. He can go tit-for-tat and take shots to give them, but he's perhaps most dangerous at mid-range before he settles into a pattern of pressuring. It's there that he typically looks to counter, and for someone who brings about fond memories of wild brawls, he has a great knack for timing counter shots. He demonstrated that in his breakout win against Mark Hominick, his welcome back win against Dennis Bermudez after completing mandatory military service, and now here against Moicano.
Being only 58 seconds there isn't a ton to break down (I'll try to deep dive it, of course), but it does illustrate just how quickly and deftly Jung can jump on an opening where many might opt to feel things out a bit further. Moicano's most notable weapon is his jab, which takes advantage of his long frame; something Jung was obviously prepared for as he immediately had his lead hand open to parry them. His other major weapon is his low kick, but it stands to reason that he wouldn't go to this much for fear of Jung's right hand counter coming over the top of it. Moicano would pump a range-finding jab just to test the distance, and while that's generally a safe move it gave Jung useful intel as to what the jab looked like and how it'd be delivered. Moicano responded to a lunging jab just short of the target from Jung with a left hook counter attempt. Jung responded with a left hook of his own, which Moicano slipped, and then dipped slightly to his left and hesitated to give Moicano's a target, which drew out another jab from Moicano just as he wanted. Jung was ready for it. Moicano had pumped that range-finding jab just seconds before committing, so Jung had a good idea of it's timing and placement, which mean he also had a good idea of how to time the counter. He ducked under it and scored with a huge overhand right that sent Moicano to the canvas, and a left hook that caught him on the way down.
I've watched this on loop for about 5 minutes.
Jung swarmed for the finish, and in a good show of composure, he pressed Moicano's near leg down stepped over into mount as he tried to tie him up from the bottom. From there Moicano gave up his back and looked to think about standing to shake Jung off the top since he was riding a bit high, but Jung adjusted position and flattened him out. From there it was just a matter of time, as Jung rained down punches until the referee stepped in. Countering a jab so perfectly is a pretty difficult thing to do, and Jung has shown a talent for it, as he also demonstrated the ability in countering Bermudez's jab with the uppercut that put him down.
Who knew jabbing could be such a bad idea?
Coming into the fight my biggest source of trepidation when it came to Moicano's chances was his tendency to succumb to pressure. It turned out that it didn't particularly matter much, as he was simply caught with a well-timed counter and it all went downhill from here. It was an excellent showing from Jung, who continues to surprise me by painting varying pictures of himself in the cage. Just when I think he's a war horse with lacking defense, he pulls out a slick finish like this. I initially didn't like that this fight was made because both men are clearly top featherweights, but were definitely in need of a win; and I especially didn't like that Jung came off a knockout loss against Yair Rodriguez, who I don't even think was top 10 at the time, to face the #5 fighter in the division. In the end it paid off for him though, while you figure Moicano's standing will plummet a bit. It's unfortunate that one of them had to go on a losing streak, but I guess that's the fight game.
This win puts Jung in an interesting place rankings-wise. He was ranked 12th, with Rodriguez ahead of him at 11. Although he fairly recently lost to Rodriguez, you have to figure he leapfrogs him in the rankings, but I don't think he should take Moicano's spot and jump straight to #5; though that's pretty much what Calvin Kattar did after he beat Ricardo Lamas. As such, Jung should be in position to fight Kattar or the winner of Josh Emmett vs Mirsad Bektic next. As for Moicano, he's due for a bit of a step down, but there isn't a standout match up for him in the top 15 outside of the loser of the aforementioned Emmett vs Bektic clash, with Lamas injured and Darren Elkins fighting Ryan Hall.
Brown brutally batters Barbarena's Body
Randy Brown defeated Bryan Barberena via TKO, Round 3, 2:54
Barbarena had developed a reputation as a bit of a spoiler, but we're now really seeing the diminishing returns of a blown-up, not particularly powerful or athletic lightweight fighting welterweights; and Brown is a rather large welterweight at that. Watching this fight, the recurring theme was mostly Barbarena struggling to get inside Brown's long reach, and struggling when he did because of Brown's size and strength. That's not to minimize Brown's abilities whatsoever though; he looked better than perhaps he ever has. Though it was more or less expected that his long limbs and athleticism would give Barbarena some issues in the distance striking department, I thought his willingness to invite the clinch would be his undoing since that tends to be where Barbarena excels. That proved not to be the case at all, as he not only held his own there, but got the better of the action in the clinch for the majority of the fight. He also mixed it up well throughout, throwing liberally to the head, body, and legs to keep Barbarena guessing.
Barbarena's best moments came in round two, where he locked in a guillotine that was tight enough for Brown to roll to his back, and did a better job controlling the clinch battles. The momentum looked to be shifting a bit going into the third, but Brown found another gear in the round, landing right crosses and uppercuts as Barbarena closed the distance. After hurting him with a front kick to the body, Brown just never let up. Barbarena still fired back despite eating a hard knee and several punches to the head, but a left hook to the body while he had his guard up crumpled him to the ground and prompted the stoppage.
Brown has now alternated wins and losses over his last four fights, and it's still a bit difficult to place where he is in the grand scheme of things. He's huge for the division and has shown some talents to keep an eye on, but I hesitate to get to excited about him given how deflating all of his losses have been. He looked great here against a solid prospect measuring stick in the division, but his ceiling still isn't clear. Jingliang Li or Max Griffin are solid tests of where a fighter outside of the top 10 is at welterweight. If Barbarena can still make the weight comfortably I think he should go back to 155 lbs, otherwise Sergio Moraes could be next for him.
Ewell out-quicks dos Santos
Andre Ewell defeated Anderson Dos Santos via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-27)
I thought this was an odd fight to promote to the main card since according to the bout order it was set to open up the prelims, but it ended up being an entertaining scrap nonetheless. This fight was mostly characterized by Ewell's speed and sizable reach advantage baffling a game, but outclassed dos Santos on the feet. Through the majority of the first two rounds, the southpaw Ewell landed straight lefts almost at will, even whilst brawling with dos Santos because he was just so much faster. He made plenty of technical mistakes in exchanges and often threw himself out of position when striking, but he was just so much faster that he could react before dos Santos could make him pay. Dos Santos' chin proved to be sturdy, as he mostly ate the strikes that came his way and continued to come forward. He managed to get a takedown in round two to bring the fight to an area where he had the advantage, and he even managed to achieve mount, but Ewell was able to scramble out and get back to his feet relatively quickly before making dos Santos pay with a big right hook before the horn.
Round three started with Ewell still landing big shots, but dos Santos had an easier time finding counters of his own as the pace slowed a bit, though he still got the worst of the exchanges. He was able to land another takedown and once again move into mount, but Ewell was able to walk-walk and scramble to his feet before eventually separating. The two men would exchange until the final horn, and while it was a much better round for dos Santos, he still clearly lost the first two and fight.
I decided to go out on a limb in this one and pick dos Santos (and when I go out on a limb, the whole tree tends to fall) because I thought dos Santos' grappling would be a huge problem and eventually lead to a submission. Dos Santos didn't exactly play ball by not really pushing the issue with takedowns until the second half of the fight, but even then I have to give credit to Ewell for dealing with the grappling much better than I thought he was able to. On both occasions when he got mounted I thought it was a matter of time before he was done, but he managed to escape relatively unharmed both times. Ewell had looked like a pretty decent prospect, but his breakout win over Renan Barao doesn't look as great given how diminished Barao has looked. This fight restored a bit of that prospect shine.
This also helped.
Lee easily handles De La Rosa
#10 Andrea Lee defeated #11 Montana De La Rosa via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
De La Rosa enjoyed a great start to her UFC career in winning her first three fights, but this fight showed that she's still a cut below the upper-mid tier of the division. Her wins have looked impressive, but have also been against decidedly low-level opposition, and Lee was just a bit too much of a step up for her. I actually imagined that this fight would be closer since De La Rosa is a pretty relentless wrestler and grappler, and Lee is all too willing to engage opponents in those areas even when it's not in her best interest. While she certainly didn't buck that trend in this fight, she was just overall very prepared for what De La Rosa brought to the table. Lee gave up several takedowns (five in the fight), but managed to get back to her feet pretty easily and therefore was never discouraged from throwing whatever techniques she wanted on the feet despite being taken down a few times off of kicks.
De La Rosa was very active on the feet, even more so than Lee, but she was just vastly outgunned there, landing a laughable 11% of her significant strikes at distance (11 of 100), and 13% overall (14 of 107). In contrast Lee landed 73 of her total 126 significant strike attempts for 57% accuracy. De La Rosa had a small glimmer of hope with a brabo choke that she locked up following a takedown, but once that was escaped she once again ended up on bottom, and the fight closed out with her having to escape an inverted triangle and getting her back taken by Lee as the fight came to a close. It was wholesale domination, and definitely a call for her to go back to the drawing board and sharpen her skills.
Despite Lee allegedly not being a fan of her performance in this fight, she looked solid. Now on a three-fight winning streak of her own, it may not be too long before she can serve as fodder for Valentina Shevchenko. For now it makes sense for her to take on the winner of the upcoming rematch between Roxanne Modafferi and Jennifer Maia. Perhaps she can in turn avenge a loss if she rematches Modafferi. De La Rosa's stock dropped a bit after such a dominant loss, so she should take on the loser of next week's bout between Emily Whitmire and Amanda Ribas, or Polyana Viana.
Kevin Holland does Kevin Holland things, takes a weird decision
Kevin Holland defeated Alessio Di Chirico via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Another Kevin Holland fight, another close decision that it's hard to feel passionately about one way or the other. The media didn't appear to feel the same way, as 11 of 14 outlets on MMADecisions.com awarded the fight to Di Chirico, but honestly I just didn't see either guy doing a ton to put a stamp on the fight. Holland appeared to dislocate his shoulder at some point in the second round and spent the entire third round throwing only kicks and left hands, and Di Chirico still just sort of sat back and got outstruck. I'm honestly surprised all the judges' scorecards were identical for this fight, because the whole fight was one big toss-up since neither man was really able to step out in front too much. I scored the fight for Holland, and I don't even really know why; on the flip side I wouldn't know why Di Chirico deserved the nod either. It was just another Kevin Holland fight where he may not have deserved the decision, but threw enough odd offense that maybe...he did deserve it? It's has hard to care as it is to decipher, as this fight was not fun to watch. Holland's first couple UFC fights were also weird, but as decidedly just as entertaining as they were odd. Lately his fights have been close, but largely uninteresting clinch-heavy affairs. It doesn't matter to me who either of these guys fight next, as long as it's someone who can force them to be more watchable.
Dan Ige defeated Kevin Aguilar via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
This was a pretty fun, back and forth affair. I expected Aguilar to have the edge on the feet, but Ige actually displayed the better technique there. He dropped Aguilar with a left hook and cut him with elbows in the guard, and although he wasn't able to finish the fight it set a bit of a tone for the rest of the contest. The second round was mostly grappling, where I thought Ige would have a definite edge, but again to my surprise Aguilar got the better of things. While working for a reverse triangle following a takedown reversal, he was slammed to the mat but held on to the position, eventually finding a tight armbar. Ige escaped it and would work his way to mount, only to be immediately rolled over to end up on his back where Aguilar landed some nice ground and pound.
Ige was really on his game.
With the fight being up for grabs in round three, the pace slowed a bit from the furiousness of round two. Things were pretty even until a big right from Ige backed Aguilar to the fence. From there Ige turned up the pressure, landing knees and punches to a recovering Aguilar. A right uppercut-left hook combo stunned Aguilar again, but his chin held up well and he fired back until the horn. Ige continues to put on very solid performances under the radar, and is on a four-fight winning streak since losing his UFC debut to his current doppelganger, Julio Arce. I want that rematch just to be confused.
Ashley Yoder defeated Syuri Kondo via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-25, 30-24)
Yoder showed why they call her "Spider Monkey" in this fight; she latched on to Kondo and wouldn't let go. In this striker vs grappler match up, it was clear that Kondo had an edge on the feet, but Yoder wouldn't let it stay there long enough for it to make much difference, using her long reach to find her way inside and tie up. Kondo's takedown defense was generally solid, but Yoder would always find a way to initiate a scramble or sneak around to the back so that the action ended up on the ground. Kondo's defense on the ground was solid, but she just couldn't find a way to get the fight back to the feet and discourage Yoder from barreling into the clinch. Yoder was able to fight her type of fight, and although she isn't much of a finisher at this level (unfortunately), she thing she's probably best at is keeping opponents tangled up and coming out on top in scrambles. Now on a two-fight win streak after starting her UFC career with three rough style match ups, she has a little bit of pressure lifted from her shoulders and her head shouldn't be on the chopping block at this point. You have to figure Kondo is likely cut after losing her third straight (though Yoder did start her UFC stint 0-3), and she'll probably go back to Pancrase, or maybe even return to pro wrestling.
Luis Pena defeated Matt Wiman via TKO, round 3, 1:14
Wiman returned to the octagon after nearly five years away from the sport for reasons I don't know, but hope aren't just money related. Five years is a long time in this sport. Five years ago fighters were able to display sponsors on their shorts, and Wiman made a statement by refusing to do so and wearing plain shorts in his last fight against Isaac Vallie-Flagg. Now he returns essentially having to wear a sponsored uniform in the cage that he has no control over beyond color and style of shorts, which was probably a relief for him considering his reasoning for not taking on sponsors previously was just that he didn't feel it was worth the effort. Still, since his last fight we've not only seen the Reebok deal come into play, but they're currently on the third design iteration of the fight gear.
But that's enough about fashion, where five years really matters is in the sport itself. Still a relatively young sport, a lot tends to change in five years and it really showed in this fight, where Wiman served as a bit of a time capsule of sorts. He would shoot with little setup, and when he was stuffed he'd roll for a leglock and really commit to it; he'd hang out in Thai clinch covering up for knees but not elbows. Not to say that you could do these things all day without worry five years ago, but it's is all stuff that fighters have gotten out of the habit of doing these days. The leglocks specifically did him a disservice, because nowadays the chances of you successfully using a leglock for anything other than sweeping are slim, and even for sweeps it's not a regular occurence. You usually just end up being pounded in the face, especially when your opponent is as rangy as Pena. On top of all that, Wiman just looked rusty in there, and appeared to be compensating for it with activity. He still showed some nice instincts and zeal in the grappling department other than the dedication to leglocks, but on the feet he just seemed to hop around and throw random strikes with no real rhyme or reason. Probably the biggest sign of rustiness I saw was when Wiman escaped a pretty tight arm-triangle choke attempt, and managed to scramble onto Pena's back. Rather than secure positioning on the back it seemed like he got too excited and just went for the rear-naked choke before he had any hooks in, and promptly slipped off Pena's back to find himself on the bottom again. It's a mistake I don't think he would've made had he not been out so long.
Careful with those leglocks, guys.
Pena looked solid, about as good as you'd expect him to look against a veteran who has been gone for almost half a decade. He showed an increased level of confidence and pressure in his game that may or may not have been brought on by the match up itself. He's still a work in progress, but overall things are looking good for him as long as he doesn't try to kill himself by dropping back down to 145. He has a good persona nailed down, and now he just has to develop the skills to make more people care about "Violent Bob Ross."
Jairzinho Rozenstruik defeated Allen Crowder via knockout, round 1, 0:09
From five years to nine seconds. I essentially just posted a tweet of the entire fight here so obviously there wasn't much to glean from it. Crowder literally just rushed into Rozenstruik with both arms outstretched and ran right into a jab that put him on his butt. From there he essentially did nothing to protect his face and was put to sleep with the first followup punch thrown. He stuck his right arm out to grab Rozenstruik's left wrist, but left himself completely open to the right hand. Oh well. So much for his claim of really showing everyone how good he is after his DQ "win" over Greg Hardy (yes, he does talk about it as if he put on an impressive performance). But hey, the best part of this fight being so short is that I don't have to type "Rozenstruik" a bunch of times!
Molly McCann defeated Ariane Lipski via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Well as a big Lipski fan that was a bummer. Part of me did hope that she'd pull a Mamed Khalidov and stick around in KSW where her style takes her further, but it's good that she's challenging herself, and I wouldn't be surprised if she took a bit of a pay cut to join the UFC. In this one McCann's boxing was just too quick, and once she got a feel for things it became easier and easier for her to get inside Lipski's reach. In boxing range McCann showed faster hands and a better ability to mix up her strikes. Lipski made a name for herself in Poland essentially brawling and letting her power and durability do the heavy lifting for her, and it does look like she was aware of that coming into the UFC because her style has certainly shifted toward that of a more thoughtful, composed fighter. She just hasn't really gotten a handle on that style yet because you can tell it's not her natural style, and her defensive wrestling has shown to be a bit of a liability. Her toughness and durability are still very much intact, as she took everything McCann threw with no issue, but her comparatively rote punching combinations in boxing range have caused her to struggle in range against McCann and Joanne Calderwood in her debut.
But she's still my violence queen!
As mentioned, the speed difference was a big issue; Lipski was very active and missed A LOT. McCann was pretty easily able to avoid her shots and land counters once she got into the swing of things. She was in a fight where she was best just outside of mid-range, but couldn't really keep the fight there because she didn't have the footwork to cut McCann off and stop her from finding angles and resetting. She still needs to find that balance between the aggression she showed earlier in her career and a more technical counter-fighting style that won't expose her lack of speed so much. To her credit, she did do her best work in the third round though. As for McCann, she looked solid as expected on the feet. The fight didn't do much to show that her defensive ground game isn't still a liability, but it was a nice reminder that she can do work on the feet and mix in a little wrestling as well.
Deron Winn defeated Eric Spicely via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
We opened up with the Fight of the Night, which is pretty damn rare as fights further down the card tend to dull the excitement of the curtain-jerker. As hilarious as it is that Winn is somehow a 5'6" middleweight (who up to this point fought his career at light heavyweight!), he is legitimately talented. However, this fight did raise the inevitable questions about how he'll deal with taller, longer guys at a higher level. He's favorably compared to Daniel Cormier, and for good reason (outside of being a Cormier protege), but even Cormier hasn't really had to face the sort of dimensional disadvantages Winn has in front of him. He's still young in his career and is still getting in cage time, but he had a decent amount of trouble at times on the feet with Spicely, who isn't an especially talented striker. He faded down the stretch and arguably lost the third round (hell, I thought there's at least a small case for him losing the first round too), but he carried an insane pace for the first two rounds so that can definitely be forgiven. Aside from that he showed some very quick hands and the wherewithal to go to the body when Spicely insisted on relying on a high guard. He landed some pretty big shots, and you also have to give props to Spicely for withstanding it all.
Well this was fun!
Though it was a bit sloppy at times, overall it was a positive performance from Winn. His relentless pressure worked in his favor more often than not, and he has a decent ability to move inside on a much rangier opponent and do damage with tight, powerful punches. He was compared to Mike Tyson for adapting to larger opponents, and while of course he's nowhere near on Tyson's level at this point, the comparison is otherwise apt. Now at 6-0, hopefully he's brought along at a steady pace so he won't be so thrown off by how much of a hindrance his stature may be against middleweights further up the ladder.
And that's that for UFC Greenville! We had quite a lot happening outside the UFC as well with Artem Lobov taking a contentious upset decision over Paulie Malignaggi in the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship and Rafael Lovato Jr. pulling off a pretty significant upset of his own in nabbing a decision and the middleweight title from perennial top fighter Gegard Mousasi in Bellator. Unfortunately there's no time to get into all of that here! Next week we're on to a card with a bit mor cachet on paper, as UFC on ESPN 3 will feature a headlining heavyweight clash between former title contender Francis Ngannou and former champion Junior dos Santos. Other noteworthy fights include Demian Maia attempting to halt the rise of former lightweight Anthony Rocco Martin up the welterweight ranks, and we have a pivotal fight in the apparently not-dead flyweight division when Joseph Benavidez and Jussier "Formiga" Da Silva run it back, likely to see who then runs it back with champion Henry Cejudo. But until then, sado out!