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Afterthoughts with Johann Castro: UFC Greenville

The UFC has come and gone from Greenville, South Carolina, and the underrated card delivered from beginning to end. From the opening bout war between Deron Winn and Eric Spicely, all the way up until The Korean Zombie’s unbelievable and inexplicable victory. Here are some of my thoughts after an entertaining night from Greenville.


A post shared by 정찬성 (@koreanzombiemma) on Jun 21, 2019 at 9:17pm PDT

Call it recency bias if you want, I call it a simple look at the resumé. After a 56-second starch of a top 5 featherweight contender in Renato Moicano, The Korean Zombie has now re-entered the conversation of contendership at 145. Even including the fluke knockout loss to Yair Rodriguez late in 2018, TKZ has looked as good as any featherweight on the roster, with now two knockout wins over top 7 ranked opponents in his last three bouts. For a second, look at the resumé of The Korean Zombie and look at the resumé of current title challenger Frankie Edgar. Over the last two years, both men have had a grand total of three fights, both 2-1. Edgar’s wins came against Yair Rodriguez and Cub Swanson, while Zombie came against then 7th ranked Dennis Bermudez and now fifth-ranked Renato Moicano. The only advantage in Edgar’s favor is that he beat the common opponent of the two, which as we established before, so did Jung over the course of 24:59 of the fight. Now, I’ll be the first one to stand at the forefront and say Alexander Volkanovski is 100% the next title challenger and number one, as he should be. But The Korean Zombie has a very compelling case now. He’s in a position where he doesn’t really need to fight again unless it’s a title shot. Now, if he’s the savage that I think he is, he’ll probably step back in there anyway, but to me it doesn’t seem far fetched to think the UFC could keep him on standby for a title shot in the near future, and admittedly, given his history, I wouldn’t be mad at it. I also wouldn’t be mad if he got a title eliminator bout against Brian Ortega, Zabit Magomedsharipov, or Volkanovski. But most importantly, above all, let’s not forget that Dana White, the most important man in this equation, is a big fan of The Korean Zombie, as has evidenced this in the past by wearing his famous shirt in public. Keep your eyes open for Holloway-Korean Zombie or Edgar-Korean Zombie potentially later this year.


A post shared by Renato Moicano – UFC (@renato_moicano_ufc) on Jun 23, 2019 at 12:25pm PDT

This is one of the more gut-wrenching losses so far in 2019, at least for a fighter who classified as a rising contender. In a span of a little over 7 months, Renato Moicano has gone from title challenger in waiting, to now scraping the top 10, on a two-fight skid likely in line for a showdown with a rising prospect next. The reason that this one is particularly upsetting is that it goes to show how real it gets at this level of the sport, how quickly things can shift out of favor for a fighter. Let’s not forget that this man almost beat Brian Ortega and likely would have had it not been for an ill-fated takedown against the slickest of guard games possessed by Ortega. If you’re a fan of these articles, you’ve often seen me refer to Jose Aldo as the ultimate gatekeeper, “then boss monster before the boss monster.” So, while it’s hard to fault Moicano for that loss, this one seemed like a stylistic treat for him. Zombie has never been known for his technique, so Moicano could’ve very easily been content winning a points battle. Instead, he decided to trade, and that decision has now led him into that dreaded position of gatekeeper stature at 145, a division with rising killers looking to usurp him in the rankings. No matter who fights Moicano next, be sure that they’ll be in a position to “kill the wounded animal,” so to speak.


A post shared by kevin holland (@trailblaze2top) on Jun 21, 2019 at 1:55pm PDT

Kevin Holland escaped with another decision win at UFC Greenville against Alessio Di Chirico, and while he claims a shoulder injury hindered his success in the bout, it doesn’t mean I don’t have a bit of skepticism on the Fort Worth product. This is not me saying he isn’t UFC caliber, because he clearly is. Winning three straight in the UFC is impressive no matter how you do it; but in a shallow division, as middleweight has become, fans will gravitate to the next closest thing they want to believe is a “super prospect.” I don’t know the extent of the injury he suffered, but I do know that if the UFC wants to push Holland as a significant player at middleweight with real star potential, they need to move in slowly. Picking up close decision wins over Gerald Meerschaert and Alessio Di Chirico don’t exactly help the case of being a top-flight middleweight just yet. Dana White calls him “Big Mouth” for a reason because he knows how to talk his way into opportunities, an example of this being one of the few guys to earn a Contender Series contract despite only earning a decision win. But if Dana is smart, he won’t let Big Mouth talk his way into biting off more than he can chew at the moment. Let him grow a bit more, and then his star potential will skyrocket once he actually is ready for the top 15.


A post shared by Jairzinho BIGI BOY Rozenstruik (@jairzinho.rozenstruik) on Jun 23, 2019 at 8:36am PDT

Outside of The Korean Zombie, the most incredible performance of the night was undoubtedly Jairzinho Rozenstruik. A 9-second flatline knockout is impressive no matter who you are in whatever promotion you’re in, let alone the UFC. Rozenstruik is insanely athletic and fast for a heavyweight, and carries power in his punches and kicks, as he evidenced in his first UFC win against Junior Albini. He’s had two UFC fights; and I’m sold on him fighting a top 10 opponent next, especially in a division like a heavyweight that oh so desperately needs some new blood. On Twitter, I called for Rozenstruik to fight Derrick Lewis next, and I think you’d be hard-pressed to disagree with me. While Lewis was just a name that popped into my head, I genuinely do want to see him against anyone in the lower part of the top 10. His athleticism, power, movement, and unpredictability make him a very exciting puzzle to throw into the heavyweight equation.


A post shared by Molly McCann-Pearson (@meatballmolly) on Jun 21, 2019 at 10:15am PDT

Oh, I just know my Unknown MMA family is going to roast me for this one. This site has essentially been the unofficial Ariane Lipski parade ever since her UFC arrival. And let me be the first to say, on record, that I had insane expectations for her out of the gate. I anticipated the former KSW flyweight queen of violence to wreak havoc on the division and fight Valentina Shevchenko by year’s end. Not only was I wrong, but now, in hindsight, I wonder just how that fight would go, just how brutal that might be. Maybe it’s Octagon jitters, maybe it’s the next level of skill that she’s just not used to yet, and maybe bust is too strong of a word to use because a turnaround is absolutely possible. But I can’t think of a more disappointing prospect debut yet in 2019. Not to say her expectations rivaled that of Hector Lombard or Erick Silva, who many people thought would be champions and ended up turning into mid-carders, but this one is about a level away from turning into that. Many hardcore fans saw Lipski as the one to give Valentina Shevchenko the most problems at 125. Now, after losing to Molly McCann, those seemingly high expectations have dwindled into skepticism about her UFC credentials. I, for one, still think she deserves at least another shot, if not two more given her past success in Europe. But goodness gracious does she need to turn it around, and fast because that division is getting stronger by the event. Prove me wrong, Ariane. Show me and all those fans who’ve loved you since your KSW days that you are UFC caliber and you can right the ship.


Man I’m back! I got suspended by Instagram for copyright infringement for showing the highlights to my fight. But anyways, healing up nicely. As I’ve had time to reflect over the past weekend this has all been such a humbling experience for me. Being a wrestler at heart I’m not used to all of the luxuries of being a @ufc fighter quite yet. Wrestling is a sport where there is countless hours of the hardest work and even if you reach the pinnacle of the sport there is truly only minuscule rewards. After a lifetime of work things are finally starting to pay off. Without all the qualities wrestling instilled in me I would have never made it through that last round on Saturday night. I’m happy with how far I’ve come as a mixed martial artist but the exciting part is that I can grow so much more. Don’t worry, I’m still hungry and I’m only gonna work harder to get to where I need to be and make sure I can entertain the world like I know I can. Thank you for all the positive love I’ve received over the last few days. I don’t think you guys understand how excited I am for this wild wave we are about to ride. LFG!

A post shared by DERON WINN (@deron_winn) on Jun 27, 2019 at 12:28pm PDT

The opening bout of the night ended up being the fight of the night as it featured one of the best slugfests so far of 2019. In the end, the AKA product pulled out the unanimous decision victory after both men landed bombs and gassed out in pursuit of the finish. While Winn impressed myself and many others, a huge takeaway I got from the fight was a point that Michael Bisping brought up quite a few times during commentary, which is the fact that at middleweight, his height is going to always make him susceptible to the much larger and longer men he’ll face. Winn is a very sticky individual and what I’m proposing may be, or quite likely, out of the question. But I really think if Winn has championship aspirations, they won’t be accomplished at middleweight. If the title is his true desire, which I, of course, assume it is, I think he needs to drop to welterweight. I’m no fool (well, kinda) and I know it would be a very steep cut for him. But it’s hard to envision a 5’5 man winning a title at 185 pounds. While I understand he’s an elite wrestler, unless he’s on the level of someone like his coach Daniel Cormier or his teammate Khabib Nurmagomedov, it’s hard to envision his wrestling overcoming the disadvantage of his height. To give an idea, if he were to fight interim champion Israel Adesanya, he would be at an 11-inch reach disadvantage. If Winn could make the welterweight limit without completely destroying his body in the process, I think it wouldn’t hurt him to at least give it a shot.

Note: All opinions in this series are based solely on the opinion of the writer.

Follow Johann on Twitter: @thejohanncastro

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