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UFC Fight Night 154 predictions, preview, and analysis

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Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) makes its way to Greenville, South Carolina this Saturday evening (June 22, 2019) for another dose of streaming mixed martial arts (MMA) action on the ESPN+ digital network.

Two top Featherweights coming off rough losses look to right the ship in the main event, which pits Renato Moicano against the immortal “Korean Zombie,” Chan Sung Jung. Bon Secours Wellness Center was also expected to host a Bantamweight rematch between knockout artist Rob Font and one of the organization’s most aggressive fighters, John Lineker, but that pairing got scrapped when “Hands of Stone” came up lame.

Hey, we still have a guaranteed donnybrook between Welterweights Bryan Barberena and Randy Brown!

Our standard main card guru recently had his soul devoured by the villainous Shang Tsung, so the thankless duty falls to me once again. You can check out the UFC Greenville “Prelims” analysis here and here, plus some odds tinkering here.

145 lbs.: Renato Moicano (13-2-1) vs. Chan Sung “The Korean Zombie” Jung (14-5)

Random factoid: the UFC was far from the first time ESPN dipped its toes in MMA. ESPN Deportes aired a few Jungle Fight cards around the turn of the decade, among them Jungle Fight 24 in 2010. The card featured multiple future UFC competitors, including Wendell Oliveira, Ildemar Alcantara, Francisco Trinaldo, and a skinny 2-0 21-year-old named Renato “Moicano” Carneiro who choked out “Kiko” Felipe in the co-main event.

Funny, the things you find while browsing random channels, bored out of your mind at your dad’s house.

Moicano’s since evolved far beyond his pure grappling background into a well-rounded fighter capable of completely nullifying one of the division’s better boxers in Calvin Kattar. As fond as I am of “The Korean Zombie,” I expect Moicano to find similar success here. Jung’s straightforward pressure leaves him vulnerable to Moicano’s skilled outfighting, especially the low kicks, and while Jung only needs one opportunity to turn the whole fight around, Moicano’s chin and strong wrestling make it unlikely that Jung will get one.

“The Korean Zombie” is game as can be, but without the ability to consistently get into top position or force Moicano into protracted close-range exchanges, he’s in for a long night. So long as Moicano’s gas tank holds up for five rounds, he should win a comfortable decision.

Prediction: Moicano by unanimous decision

135 lbs.: John “Hands of Stone” Lineker (31-9) vs. Rob Font (16-4)

I do love me some Lineker, but that won’t stop me from acknowledging Font’s technical improvements. I don’t expect “Hands of Stone” to basically run Font over the way he did last time.

He’ll still win, though; it’ll just be a little tougher.

Beyond Lineker’s trademark pressure brawling, he found success exploiting Font’s takedown defense last time, a trick he proved still willing to pull out against Cory Sandhagen. Font’s visibly improved his wrestling, but still struggled with Raphael Assuncao’s grappling offense. Even if Font does start wresting control of the striking, Lineker has a fallback.

To make matters worse for Font, Lineker’s undoubtedly pissed as all hell after losing a split decision last time. Font’s not going to have room to breathe, lacking the Earth-shaking power it would take to slow Lineker or the outfighting ability to play matador. Lineker comes out with something to prove and finishes Font late.

Prediction: Lineker by third-round TKO

170 lbs.: Bryan “Bam Bam” Barberena (14-6) vs. Randy “Rude Boy” Brown (10-3)

Neither of these guys will challenge for a title anytime soon, but sometimes you just want a good old-fashioned brawl, and they can certainly deliver that. Barberena’s as relentless as anyone in the UFC and Brown can do real damage with those long limbs.

It’s hard to pick against “Bam Bam” when he’s fighting someone willing to engage, even with his height and reach disadvantages. The man thrives in wars of attrition and took hellacious amounts of punishment from one of the division’s hardest punchers in Vicente Luque before getting caught with a knee. Brown cannot control the striking for 15 minutes against someone this implacable.

The worry here is Brown’s increasing willingness to wrestle, as Barberena’s never been difficult to bring down. I just don’t see Brown having the composure or ground technique to hold Barberena down for long enough, especially once Barberena’s volume punching starts paying dividends. Brown secures the first round at range before Barberena racks up enough damage to take over and force a late stoppage.

Prediction: Barberena by third-round TKO

125 lbs.: Andrea “KGB” Lee (10-2) vs. Montana De La Rosa (10-4)

Gotta say, I respect the UFC continuing to pit Lee against grapplers instead of handing her easy stylistic matchups. Both of “KGB’s” pro defeats came against submission specialists, one a split decision loss to Roxy Modafferi and the other a rear naked choke courtesy of Sara D’Alelio.

Lee’s thus far passed the tests, including a dominant victory over Ashlee Evans-Smith last time out. She should have even more success against De La Rosa, who boasts a lethal submission game from the top but struggles to land regular takedowns. Lee’s improved wrestling defense will give her free reign to unleash her superior kickboxing.

De La Rosa doesn’t need to spend more than a minute or so on top to get the finish, but Lee won’t even give her that, sprawling-and-brawling to a commanding victory.

Prediction: Lee by unanimous decision

185 lbs.: Kevin “Trail Blazer” Holland (14-4) vs. Alessio Di Chirico (12-2)

Kevin Holland fights like he’s making it up as he goes along and I respect that. Unfortunately, that also makes my job difficult, as I can never tell whether he’s going to use his 6’3” frame and 81” reach to great effect on the feet or do his damnedest to throw away a winnable fight with unnecessary grappling exchanges.

Di Chirico is grappling-oriented enough to make the answer to that conundrum the difference between victory and defeat. Holland’s got more than half a foot of reach on him and the striking skills to comfortably cruise to victory at range, but considering that he let a gassed-to-death Gerald Meerschaert enjoy long stretches of top control last time out, it’s hard to have faith that “Trail Blazer” will actually make the most of his physical advantages.

Luckily for Holland, Di Chirico’s struggled to find finishes in the Octagon outside of his knee KO of the monumentally sloppy Oluwale Bamgbose, so spending a minute or two on his back isn’t a death sentence. So long as Holland learned from the near-disaster against Meerschaert and isn’t too content to oblige Di Chirico on the ground, he should rack up enough potshots at range to secure the decision.

Prediction: Holland by unanimous decision

115 lbs.: Syuri Kondo (6-2) vs. Ashley “Spider Monkey” Yoder (6-4)

Gonna be honest: I have no idea if this is actually on the main card. It was listed as a main card fight for the longest time, but I just checked the UFC website and it’s apparently a Prelim. Except that would make for a five-fight main card and these Fight Nights always have six.

Whatever.

I’d imagine most aren’t that familiar with these two, so here’s the skinny: Kondo is a striker with a kickboxing and, oddly enough, pro wrestling background who’s lost her last two. She relies mostly on forward pressure and 1-2s. Yoder was an Ultimate Fighter hopeful who lost her first three UFC bouts, though she arguably beat Justine Kish in her UFC debut and fought Mackenzie Dern to a split decision. She’s coming off a split decision over Amanda Cooper.

Kondo’s recent struggles came against rangier, more powerful strikers in Poliana Botelho and Xiaonan Yan, and while Yoder will have height and reach advantages, she doesn’t pack enough heat to keep Kondo off of her. She does have a significant edge on the mat, though, and while Kondo has yet to be taken down in the Octagon, none of her three opponents have been takedown artists.

We’ll probably determine the winner based on the outcome of Yoder’s first shot.

I do think this will be more fun to watch than one might think, primarily on the strength of Kondo’s bloody-minded refusal to take a step back. I say Kondo’s volume, aggression, and takedown defense carry her to a razor-thin victory.

Prediction: Kondo by split decision

MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 154 fight card on fight night (click here), starting with the ESPN2 “Prelims” undercard bouts at 4 p.m. ET, followed by the ESPN+ main card start time of 7 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Fight Night 154: “Korean Zombie vs. Moicano” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here