Five Rounds: Chan Sung Jung keeps rising to occasion … and climbing

MMA

It was another newsmaking UFC fight card Saturday night in Greenville, South Carolina.

“The Korean Zombie,” also known as Chan Sung Jung, bounced back from a heartbreaking loss. Randy Brown finished the always-durable Bryan Barberena. And Luis Peña dominated Matt Wiman, who was returning after a layoff of nearly four years.

Here are five big takeaways from the UFC’s first event in South Carolina:

Chan Sung Jung is still a top-10 featherweight in 2019, perhaps better

How many times can “The Korean Zombie” come back from being basically an afterthought in the featherweight division? Most of his absences have been through no fault of his own. He missed nearly four years between 2013 and 2017 with injuries and mandatory South Korean military duty. Then, after a knockout of Dennis Bermudez in his return, Jung tore up his knee and was out for nearly two more years. In that return last November, “TKZ” was knocked out in the final second of the fifth round by an upward-moving homing missile of an elbow from Yair Rodriguez.

Jung’s nickname is “Zombie,” but he has more lives than a cat. He came back seven months after that devastating Rodriguez loss — in a fight he was winning, mind you — to knock out Renato Moicano in 58 seconds Saturday night. Moicano was No. 7 in ESPN’s featherweight rankings, way higher than Rodriguez was ranked. Jung is likely to get a real contender fight at 145 pounds before 2019 is up. How cool would a fight between him and Jose Aldo be, a rematch of their 2013 title fight? Could you imagine “The Korean Zombie” vs. “ZaBeast” Zabit Magomedsharipov?

Renato Moicano is far from done, but needs to go back to the drawing board

Ask anyone at American Top Team. They have thought Moicano was a future UFC champion for a few years now, ever since he arrived in Coconut Creek, Florida. For a time, even as recently as earlier this year, that future looked like a distinct possibility. Now, though, Moicano has lost two in row to Aldo and Jung. Those are no slouches, of course. And his only other UFC defeat came against Brian Ortega.

But the 30-year-old Moicano’s rise is not going to be as meteoric as some thought. That’s OK. He still has plenty of time and all the tools. The Brazilian is good everywhere and still owns wins over top-10 featherweights Jeremy Stephens and Calvin Kattar. Moicano isn’t going anywhere any time soon, despite this knockout loss in under a minute.

Randy Brown looks ready to fulfill his potential as a prospect

UFC president Dana White fell in love with Brown when he knocked out Robert Plotkin to defend the Ring of Combat welterweight title in November 2015. That bout was featured on White’s “Lookin’ for a Fight” program, right on the heels of the UFC’s signing of Sage Northcutt from another episode of that same show. Northcutt is gone from the UFC, having signed late last year with ONE Championship. Brown is very much still here and now evidently rounding into form.

Brown had experience as an amateur boxer before MMA, likely one of the reasons White liked him so much. But he never showed a ton as a striker in the UFC until Saturday night, in a complete performance against Bryan Barberena. Brown ended up finishing Barberena with a barrage of blows in the third round, culminating in a devastating liver kick. Brown’s kicks to the body were excellent all night. At 28 years old, Brown is now the guy White thought he was getting in 2015.

Andrea Lee is a future UFC women’s flyweight title challenger

You can write that down in pen. Lee looked great in defeating fellow contender Montana De La Rosa, bettering her in all aspects of MMA. Lee is a former Muay Thai champion and extremely athletic. We know how well she can do in the standup. But there were times Saturday night when she was more than holding her own in the grappling against De La Rosa, who is known for her wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

It’s definitely time for another step up in competition for Lee, perhaps against someone like Joanne Calderwood or even Joanna Jedrzejczyk. It’s worth noting that Lee has had two of the best performances of her career in the past four months, while dealing with some very serious personal issues. Her husband, Donny Aaron, was recently arrested on domestic violence charges.

No, it wasn’t the best performance possible. Winn likely wanted better. Eric Spicely was very, very game in a three-round war that Winn ended up winning by unanimous decision. Winn, though, showed plenty of tools. Known for his standout wrestling, Winn showed boxing that was was extremely sharp and powerful. Spicely just has a granite chin and a bigger heart. The two of them earned $50,000 each for Fight of the Night.

Winn landed 169 significant strikes, which will go into the history books. It was the highest total by a fighter in a three-round UFC debut. It also set the record for a UFC middleweight fight. Remember, this guy is supposed to be just a wrestler. Winn will be undersized in every fight — he’s just 5-foot-6. But he has the hands, the wrestling and the horsepower to give his 185-pound peers fits. Training on the regular with guys such as Cormier, Cain Velasquez and Khabib Nurmagomedov won’t hurt, either.

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