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While the in-fight product remains as good as ever, the booking of this card leaves a lot to be desired. The Ultimate Fighting Championship elected to debut in Greenville, South Carolina, and hometown hero Stephen Thompson seemed like an obvious choice as a headliner. However, he was knocked out in a battle with Anthony Pettis in March, leaving him unable to make a quick turnaround.
Sometimes, the UFC does its best work when it throws together whatever sounds fun, like the UFC Fight Night 154 main event involving Renato Carneiro and Chan Sung Jung this Saturday at Bon Secours Wellness Arena. A late injury also opened the door for John Lineker to step into a co-headlining spot, but even so, this does not look like much more than a two-fight show.
Now to the UFC Fight Night “Moicano vs. The Korean Zombie” preview:
FeatherweightsRenato Carneiro (13-2-1) vs. Chan Sung Jung (14-5)
ODDS: Carneiro (-210), Jung (+175)
The UFC needed an exciting main event on short notice, and as far as individual fighters go, Jung is probably the best man for the job. He burst onto the scene with his stateside debut at WEC 40, which went about as well as possible, save for losing his fight; his three-round war with Leonard Garcia was an instant entry into the pantheon of great fights. Backed by the entire package -- includes one of the greatest nicknames in MMA history and his entrance to The Cranberries’ “Zombie” -- Jung essentially became a star overnight without even scoring a win. Once the UFC absorbed World Extreme Cagefighting, Jung hit the ground running and continued to prove himself as a must-watch fighter every time out. First came a rematch against Garcia, which saw Jung win by executing the first twister submission in UFC history. After knocking out former title challenger Mark Hominick in just seven seconds, Jung and Dustin Poirier put on a main event scrap that went down as one of best fights of 2012. The run earned Jung a championship fight against Jose Aldo, and from there, the wheels fell off. Aldo was winning handily into the fourth round, where Jung dislocated his shoulder and was dispatched soon after. It took nearly four years for Jung to return from a combination of injuries and mandatory military service, and his 2017 comeback fight against Dennis Bermudez was a mixed affair. On the plus side, the fans treated Jung like he had never left, and he knocked out Bermudez in two and a half minutes. However, he surprisingly got rocked before scoring the comeback finish. Then came another long injury layoff -- nearly two years -- but in his latest return, Jung looked to be back to his old form, both in terms of performance and excitement. Jung’s November encounter against Yair Rodriguez was one of the most memorable scraps of 2018, with “The Korean Zombie” typically getting the best of non-stop action. With one second left, Rodriguez executed one of the craziest finishes in the history of the sport, knocking out Jung with a no-look reverse upward elbow as he rushed in for the last exchange of the fight. Still, Jung exists firmly in a zone where wins and losses do not matter as much. As long as he does not suddenly start taking flash knockouts, he has built up enough cache and provided enough excitement that he will succeed as an attraction, no matter the results. With that said, one more run towards the featherweight title would be nice, and a win over Carneiro would get him right back into the picture.
Carneiro has taken his own uneven path up the featherweight ranks. The Brazilian enjoyed an impressive debut in 2014 as a hyped prospect and dispatched Tom Niinimaki in rather easy fashion, but from there, injuries threatened to derail his career, limiting him to only a narrow win over Zubaira Tukhugov over the course of the ensuing 27 months. That made it a bit of a surprise when “Moicano” was plucked from the prelims for a big step up against Jeremy Stephens and even more of a surprise when managed to take a decision from the well-traveled veteran. It established Carneiro as a young fighter to watch, and over the subsequent two-plus years, he has shown an impressive depth of skill. His jiu-jitsu skills are top notch, and beginning with the Stephens fight, he has shown a practiced range striking game that has allowed him to pick apart opponents at will. Carneiro remains in search of that one win to put him on a featherweight contenders shortlist, however, as he has had trouble getting over the hump. In 2017, he became another victim in Brian Ortega’s run of third-round comebacks, and his most recent appearance saw Aldo storm out in the second round to register a knockout against him. “Moicano” is already 30 years old, so there may not be much more development left, but with a win here, he could easily find himself back in the featherweight title picture if everything breaks right.
As is the case with every Jung fight, if nothing else, this figures to be an entertaining war. “Moicano” should be able to dictate the terms of their exchanges, owing to his strong jab and ability to set a range, so it will be up to Jung to score a finish at some point over 25 minutes. That will provide the most interesting drama. While Carneiro may be able to pick his opponent apart, “The Korean Zombie” will likely remain aggressive, so when Jung decides to blitz in with a burst of offense, “Moicano” may not react well if the finish to the Aldo fight is any indication. Taking things to the mat may also be an option, though it is unclear which man will have the advantage. Between Carneiro’s Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills and Jung’s scrambling creativity, those exchanges would result in absolute madness. With all that said, Carneiro should be able to settle into a groove and break down Jung from range. He will likely get hit in the process as Jung has his moments, but jabs and leg kicks should pay dividends and allow the Brazilian to keep winning down the stretch. There is a decent chance of a late finish, but Carneiro seems more likely to win a war of attrition than connect with the one big shot to knock out Jung. The pick is “Moicano” via decision.
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