No Lineker, No Problem: UFC Fight Night 154 Promises Serious Striking Action

Scott Harris@ScottHarrisMMAMMA Lead WriterJune 21, 2019

Chan Sung Jung
Chan Sung JungChris Unger/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

The UFC takes plenty of guff for lackluster cards, especially those outside the pay-per-view tentpoles. So it's only fair, then, that they receive credit when they engineer an event that looks more than worth a viewer's time.

Such is the case for UFC Fight Night 154, going down Saturday night from Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, South Carolina.

This card is positively hissing with violence. And that holds true even after news broke early Friday that captivating but oft-frustrating bantamweight John Lineker was a late scratch yet again, this time for the ever-popular undisclosed reason. His co-main event with fellow violence artist Rob Font promised to be a humdinger (as of Friday morning, it was unclear whether Font would remain on the card).

Lineker's loss shows why depth is so important when assembling these cards; there are still plenty of fights and fighters to pick up the slack during Saturday's event.

The main event is as good a place to start as any. Chan Sung Jung (14-5), also known as the Korean Zombie, is a well-established brawler with an iron chin and a penchant for action. Ditto his opponent, Renato Moicano (16-2-1), who is an international-level jiu-jitsu player with a nose for the finish, as his six submission wins demonstrate.

There is roughly a 0 percent chance this won't be exciting. Adding extra intrigue is the question over whether Zombie can return to the contender form he displayed several years ago before departing the UFC for mandatory military service in his native South Korea—something that took away two years of his prime. This is only his fourth fight in the past six years, though he has displayed his familiar toughness in that time.

The violence potential continues down the card. Welterweight Bryan Barberena might be the toughest dude on the entire roster. His last fight, a loss to Vicente Luque, is on the shortlist for 2019 fight of the year.

He's in full-on Joe Lauzon bonus-hunting mode, and Randy Brown will be a willing foil. Brown has yet to fulfill the hype that followed him into the UFC, but that's not for lack of gumption. He's got a rangy striking game, but if Barberena can close the distance and prosecute this fight in a phone booth (or on the mat) it's probably his to lose.

Speaking of unfulfilled hype, Andrea Lee (10-2) could use a statement win. The Texan is 2-0 in the UFC, but neither win was particularly convincing. She has elite muay thai chops and could put them to work against an improving but beatable opponent in Montana De La Rosa (10-4). 

Andrea Lee (right) tries an axe kick on Ashlee Evans-Smith
Andrea Lee (right) tries an axe kick on Ashlee Evans-SmithJosh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

And don't you dare forget about Kevin Holland (14-4). Don't do it, lest you demean us both. Holland's approach to the fight game is basically acting wild: lots of chatter, lots of unorthodox striking and plenty of unhinged attempts to bring the house down.

He tried a flying omoplata once...in an active UFC fight. That's pretty good. He has six wins apiece by knockout and submission, and he could add to the tally against the patently unremarkable Alessio Di Chirico (12-2). 

If you think the action ends with the main card, look no further than the nicknames. We must always look to the nicknames, mustn't we?

In the undercard, not one but two fighters literally have violence in their names. Brazilian flyweight Ariane Lipski (11-4) is dubbed "The Violence Queen" and is favored to bring some pain down on Molly McCann (8-2)—in the process avenging to some degree the loss she suffered in her UFC debut. 

And last but not least we have "Violent Bob Ross" himself, Luis Pena (6-1). Don't let the reddish afro and thin limbs fool you. Pena can knock people out. There's no reason to believe he won't let it all hang out against Matt Wiman (16-7), who came way out of the blue to join this card after a four-and-a-half-year absence. 

Luis Pena (right)
Luis Pena (right)Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

Like the popular TV painter that inspired his nickname, Pena likes to put his dreams on the canvas. But this is a different kind of canvas, and his paint is not paint at all, but blood! That's the kind of art fight fans can expect when they tune in Saturday, even without Lineker in the mix.


Scott Harris covers MMA for Bleacher Report