Featherweight talent, Renato “Moicano” Carneiro, will duel with hard-hitting bruiser, Chan Sung Jung, this Saturday (June 22, 2019) night on ESPN+ at UFC Fight Night 154 from inside Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, South Carolina.
Carneiro does not fight like a man with just seven UFC bouts to his name. In fact, the highly ranked contender — who like other Brazilian legends “Shogun” and “Barao” is better known now by his moniker than last name — faced veteran opposition in just his third appearance inside the Octagon, a clear-cut decision win opposite Jeremy Stephens that helped prove Moicano the real deal.
Since that win, Carneiro has split four bouts evenly, facing nothing less than top 10 competition in each bout. While the Brazilian has yet to build a win streak worthy of a title shot, Moicano is a dangerous threat to anyone in the division.
Let’s take a closer look at his skill set.
A black prajied in Muay Thai — which generally doesn’t have a ranking system, so take that for what it’s worth — Carneiro is a brutal representative of the art of eight limbs.
Before getting into his biggest strength of kicking, Carneiro’s boxing is an interesting case. On one hand, Carneiro has a piston of a jab that has sat foes on the mat (GIF). At the same time, Moicano will often fling awkward hooks at his opponent when pressed. While they’re certainly dangerous, it’s far from great boxing form, which is why Brian Ortega was able to land well in longer exchanges from the pocket.
Luckily, Moicano is a very smart fighter. Without fearing the pocket, he understands well it’s not where he wants the fight to happen. Instead, Carneiro takes advantage of his long frame, looking to fight from edge of his kickboxing distance.
It does not take long for Moicano to establish his distance with the jab, which Carneiro fires stiffly into his opponent’s jaw. The Brazilian feints the jab well, hiding a true blow behind a shift in his shoulders. After the jab lands, the low kicks will begin to flow, and this is where Carneiro is at his best. In this week’s technique highlight, we discuss the relationship between the jab and low kicks.
The best low kicking performance of Moicano’s career came opposite Calvin Kattar. Kattar is an excellent boxer, a man who moves well, feints actively, and sets up hard combinations with a piercing jab. However, Moicano denied him the jab, which threw off Kattar’s entire game. First and foremost, Carneiro made it a habit of kicking the leg as Kattar jabbed — a painful deterrent for sure. As the fight wore on, he would also switch Southpaw and crowd Kattar’s lead hand with his own, only to again crush the thigh with a kick (GIF).
Moicano has some other neat kicking tricks up his sleeve. For example, a favorite setup of the Brazilian’s is to give ground, taking a small step backward. As his foe steps forward, Moicano bounces off the mat with a quick lead leg kick to the body or head.
Ideally, Moicano competes from outside the pocket, and the Brazilian ruthlessly attacks any who would seek to pressure him. Whenever fired upon, Carneiro will immediately bite down on his mouth piece and fire off at least pair of hooks. Again, it’s not necessarily great boxing, but two-to-four dangerous whinging hooks are enough to convince an MMA fighter to back off, perfectly setting up either a right low kick or left body kick to follow those power shots.
Technical or not, fighters who always plant and fire back hard when touched are frustrating.
The only exceptions to this rule are Moicano’s bouts with Jeremy Stephens and Zubaira Tukhugov. In those bouts, Moicano was very clearly the sharper man at distance, and both foes were absolutely swinging for the fences (Stephens) or trying to run through takedowns (Tukhugov). Rather than plant his feet and take the risk either, Carneiro stayed on his back and avoided the majority of his foe’s offense with relative ease.
While wrestling is perhaps the least standout feature of Moicano’s game, the Brazilian has proven to be a very solid offensive and defensive wrestler.
Offensively, Moicano tends to land his takedowns reactively. I write about this exact trio of sentences at least once per month, but the reactive double leg is such an easy and effective weapon when utilized by a lanky kickboxer with a strong sense of distance. Once an opponent is persuaded to over-commit to a power punch, his hips are square, meaning the takedown will come easily if timed correctly.
That sequence is exactly how Moicano placed Stephens on the mat a couple of times.
A black belt with six submission wins to his credit, Moicano has shown an excellent top game in his short exchanges on the mat. All six of those tapout victories came via rear naked choke, and the Brazilian has looked like an assassin from back mount.
Against both Cub Swanson and Tom Niinimaki, Carneiro’s path to the back mount and finish was quite similar. After getting them down to the mat, Carneiro immediately began to work to pass by stepping over one leg into half guard. Given both opponents were attempting to stand rather than maintain guard, Moicano was able to back step his trapped leg. At this point, only Moicano’s upper body is holding his foe down, so usually fighters will attempt to sit up and scramble.
Moicano’s hips are ready for that response, as he takes a wide step into mount, applying hip pressure to force his foe back flat into mount. From this point, both Swanson and Niinimaki gave up their backs in an attempt to scramble, allowing Moicano to force his arm under the neck (GIF).
In the sole submission loss of his career, Brian Ortega forced Moicano to make a mistake. A bit fatigued from Ortega’s pace and body shots, Carneiro looked for rest in the form of a double leg takedown. Though he tried to cut around toward the back — which eliminates the threat of the guillotine choke when successfully — Ortega was able to circle with him and jump guard, forcing the submission.
Carneiro is a very well-rounded contender with great physical tools. His recent fights have been entertaining, and the Brazilian has proven himself a worthy member of the division’s elite class. If he’s to earn a title shot, however, he has to put together a few wins, starting with “Korean Zombie.”
Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt, is a professional fighter who trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport’s most elite fighters.