Now that MMA fans have made it through the rare UFC-free weekend, we are back on schedule for the next few weeks, starting with UFC on ESPN+ 12, which features “The Korean Zombie” Chang Sung Jung and Renato Moicano in the main event. It’s an event that is flying under the radar as most fans focus on the upcoming UFC 239 card that features Jon Jones, Amanda Nunes and more, but the fans at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, S.C., will be treated to a number of up-and-comers and a few fights that could produce rising contenders.
Jung, a former featherweight title challenger, took a hiatus from his MMA career after a failed title bid against José Aldo in 2013. The Korean Zombie returned in 2017, but he’s won just one of his two fights since then. Jung looks to show fans that he is here to stay when he takes on Moicano, who would like to rebound from his loss to the aforementioned Aldo. The setback was the Brazilian’s second since joining the UFC, but he is still on the short list of contenders in the 145-pound division and could easily get back on track with a win over Jung.
The co-headliner features John Lineker, who attempts to get back into the win column when he takes on former foe Rob Font in a rematch of their UFC 198 bout that Lineker won via decision. Lineker has gone 4-2 in his subsequent fights, which include losses to T.J. Dillashaw and Cory Sandhagen. Font holds a similar 4-2 mark over his last six appearances, but he will try to carry the momentum of his recent victory over Sergio Pettis into this fight.
The main card also features welterweights Bryan Barberena and Randy Brown, flyweight ladies Andrea Lee and Montana De La Rosa, and middleweights Kevin Holland and Alessio Di Chirico.
The UFC on ESPN+ 12 prelims kick off at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN2. The main card follows at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN+. Combat Press writers Matt Quiggins and Matt Petela preview the action in this edition of Toe-to-Toe.
”The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung has not been very active since returning following his mandatory stint in South Korea’s military. He has just two fights and only one win in his comeback attempt. Now, he draws another tough challenge against Renato Moicano, a rising featherweight contender. What can we expect out of this contest?
Petela: Expect the unexpected. The Korean Zombie has been on both ends of some of the most memorable finishes in UFC history. For my money, he executed the single most impressive submission — Alexei Oleinik’s ezekiel chokes and Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson’s suplex-into-armbar are a distant second and third — when he finished Leonard Garcia by twister in their 2011 rematch. He was then on the receiving end of an elbow from Yair Rodriguez at the UFC’s 25th anniversary show that was delivered at such an odd angle it left trigonometry instructors scratching their heads.
It wouldn’t be a shock to see Jung’s fight with Moicano earn both men performance bonuses, but your guess is as good as mine in terms of who gets their hand raised. Both men are incredibly slick in the grappling department and have fast, heavy hands that could end the fight at a moment’s notice. The deciding factor could be in the mental department — does the layoff and lack of cage time affect Jung more or less than the rebound from Moicano’s first TKO loss affects the Brazilian?
Quiggins: Jung surely made his presence known when he knocked out Dennis Bermudez in less than three minutes in his return to the Octagon. His next bout against Yair Rodriguez was one that he was definitely winning on the scorecards when he ran into one of the craziest elbows fans have ever seen and saw defeat with just one second left in the fifth round. That was eight months ago.
The Korean Zombie has a tough test ahead of him when he takes on Moicano, who prior to a loss against former featherweight champion José Aldo, looked to be sizing himself up as a title contender. Moicano will look to erase the memory of his most recent loss and put on an exciting performance. Jung will need to try to keep this fight on the feet, given that nearly half of Moicano’s wins have come via submission. However, don’t count out Jung’s ground game if it comes to it.
Former flyweight John Lineker had his bantamweight train derailed by Cory Sandhagen in a close decision. Can Lineker, who meets Rob Font in the evening’s co-headliner, ever reach the championship level in the UFC?
Quiggins: It’s really hard to say. The Brazilian has won six out of his last eight bouts, only suffering losses to former champion T.J. Dillashaw and via split decision against Sandhagen in a fight that could have gone either way.
This is a tough bout for Lineker, because he has already defeated Font. On the other hand, Font is trying to break his current trend of alternating wins and losses that dates back to July 2017. If Font is able to hand Lineker another loss, it may just delay all the hopes and dreams “Hands of Stone” has at a title run. Fortunately for Lineker, he’s only 29 and has a lot of fight left in him.
Petela: One thing that I can’t stand is when fighters reuse legendary nicknames, but I will give Lineker a pass. Even the Panamanian legend Roberto Duran would have to agree that “Hands of Stone” is as fitting a nickname as it gets for Lineker. He might be the hardest hitting 135-pound MMA fighter in history, so it is tough to count him out.
The first fight between Lineker and Font was a unanimous decision for Lineker, and I expect him to emerge victorious the second time around as well. Font is no slouch, but this fight will be a referendum on the elite level of Sandhagen. In a couple years, fans could likely be looking back at the Sandhagen/Lineker fight as a launching pad for a bantamweight champion.
Lineker still has time left to make a run in the division and has been vocal about wanting to be more active, citing a lack of opportunities from the UFC as the primary reason he has only fought three times since 2017. He has the skills to rattle off a few quick wins and put himself in title contention. If Henry Cejudo still has the bantamweight strap by then, I’d favor Lineker to be able to dethrone the incumbent.
Deron Winn — do we need to know this name?
Petela: Winn is the protege of current heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier. Like “DC,” the 5-foot-7 middleweight will likely always face significant height disadvantages. The undefeated former college wrestler remains vertically challenged even as he drops down from light heavyweight to middleweight for his UFC debut.
Embarrassing as it is to admit, I watched his fight against Tom Lawlor on the lone Golden Boy MMA event. Winn was easily the most impressive fighter on the card. It was his first decision victory, as his first four fights had all ended before the close of the first round with Winn victorious via TKO.
Between his pedigree and what I’ve already seen from him, I wholeheartedly believe Winn is a name fans should know. Jump on the bandwagon now, ladies and gentlemen, this one could be headed for UFC gold.
Quiggins: Winn is now on his third opponent for this fight. Markus Perez bowed out some time ago, and Bruno Silva was a late scratch, leading to short-notice fill-in Eric Spicely.
Silva, who was also set to make his UFC debut, will eventually be a nice addition to the UFC roster. He’s 14-1 in his last 15 bouts, most of those being finishes. His destruction of former Bellator middleweight champion Alexander Shlemenko is a thing of beauty, especially given that Shlemenko had three times as many professional bouts at the time. Unfortunately, fans will have to wait a little longer to see Silva in action.
Spicely, on the heels of two regional wins, got the call and another chance to prove himself not only to the UFC brass and fans, but to the rest of the middleweight division. With 16 bouts to his name, he carries three times that of his opponent, Winn. Yet, that’s the beauty of MMA: anything can happen.
Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?
Quiggins: Molly McCann and Ariane Lipski.
McCann put on one hell of a performance against Priscilla Cachoeira in March. Lipski, on the other hand, fell short when she took on Joanne Calderwood in January. Both women are looking to make a name for themselves in a fairly shallow flyweight division. This one goes all three rounds and has “Fight of the Night” written all over it. The “Queen of Violence” and “Meatball,” what’s a better combination?
Petela: Ashley Yoder and Syuri Kondo.
Yoder recently got back on track after starting her UFC tenure on a three-fight skid. Meanwhile, Kondo would like to get back to her winning ways after dropping two consecutive bouts, which also count as her first two professional MMA losses.
The Indiana native Yoder now fights out of Temecula, Calif., under the tutelage of Dan Henderson. She is a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Ricardo Feliciano. Her opponent, Kondo, has competed in professional wrestling and kickboxing in addition to her MMA career, and she also has singing and acting credits to her name.
Kondo doesn’t currently use a nickname, she was known as “Ant Lady” as a professional wrestler. So, in the battle of nicknames, the better combination includes “Ant Lady” against “Spidermonkey.”
Pair this card with…
Petela: Though he’s not fighting on this card, Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson is a South Carolina product and grew up just 20 minutes or so outside of Greenville in the town of Simpsonville. So, let’s pair this card with his kickboxing highlight reel, in which he amassed a 57-0 record before starting his journey as an MMA fighter. His knockout loss at the hands of Anthony Pettis is keeping him out of action in what would be a home game, but a gander back at what he accomplished in combat sports outside of the Octagon will serve as the perfect companion to this night of fights.
Quiggins: I’m going to go out on a limb and say to pair this card with someone who is just getting into MMA. They won’t be drawn in by the names as much as they would with UFC 239, but it could be a card that produces a “Fight of the Year” candidate.
|Fight||Petela’s Pick||Quiggins’s Pick|
|Main Card (ESPN+, 7 p.m. ET)|
|FW: Renato Moicano vs. Chan Sung Jung||Jung||Jung|
|BW: John Lineker vs. Rob Font||LIneker||Lineker|
|WW: Bryan Barberena vs. Randy Brown||Barberena||Brown|
|Women’s FlyW: Andrea Lee vs. Montana De La Rosa||De La Rosa||Lee|
|MW: Alessio Di Chirico vs. Kevin Holland||Di Chirico||Holland|
|Preliminary Card (ESPN2, 4 p.m. ET)|
|FW: Dan Ige vs. Kevin Aguilar||Ige||Ige|
|Women’s StrawW: Ashley Yoder vs. Syuri Kondo||Yoder||Yoder|
|LW: Matt Wiman vs. Luis Pena||Wiman||Pena|
|HW: Allen Crowder vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik||Crowder||Rozenstruik|
|Women’s FlyW: Molly McCann vs. Ariane Lipski||Lipski||McCann|
|MW: Deron Winn vs. Eric Spicely||Winn||Winn|
|BW: Andre Ewell vs. Anderson dos Santos||Ewell||Ewell|