South Korean mixed martial arts (MMA) extraordinaire, Chan Sung Jung, challenges Featherweight wunderkind, Jose Aldo, for his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) 145-pound title this Saturday (Aug. 3, 2013) in the main event of UFC 163, which takes place at HSBC Arena in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
Asian imports haven't had much success in the Octagon, but "Korean Zombie" intends to be the exception. Known for incredibly exciting fights, Jung has become a fan favorite thanks in part to his infamous war with Leonard Garcia in the World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) promotion.
For three rounds, Jung and Garcia went to war, landing crushing blows non-stop and leaving it all in the cage. While the controversial decision went to Garcia, Jung was the star. Unfortunately, he was quickly defeated in his next match by a George Roop head kick, leaving most fans to assume that he would never be a contender, but rather an entertaining "Prelims" fighter.
Jung revamped his training and fight style before his UFC debut. And once again, UFC matchmaker Joe Silva paired him up opposite Garcia, clearly hoping for another "Fight of the Year" performance. Instead, Jung dominated Garcia on the mat, finishing with an incredibly rare twister submission.
Afterward, the South Korean was matched up against recent title contender Mark Hominick. Despite coming in as a huge underdog, Jung knocked out "The Machine" in only seven seconds, earning a title eliminator match up against Dustin Poirier. Jung took it to Poirier in a "Fight of the Night"-winning performance, finishing the Louisiana native with a d'arce choke.
Once again, Jung faces a huge step up in competition where he is the under dog against "Scarface," who will also hold home field advantage. Can "Korean Zombie" once again overcome the odds and become the promotion's first Korean champion?
Let's find out:
After training Hapkido as a child to avoid local bullies, Jung began kickboxing when he was 18 years old. Despite just three knockout victories, Jung is a dangerous striker, who's especially dangerous in brawls.
Jung has a nice spearing jab, but he doesn't maximize its potential. A jab should always do damage, but it's primary purpose is to find one's range or set up other strikes. "The Korean Zombie" doesn't use his jab to do either of these things, rather, he treats it like a power punch.
Jung prefers looping punches to straight shots, but he likes to counter his opponents with straight punches. He often lands his jab or straight right after his opponents throw leg kicks or when he can duck one of their power punches. Jung famously knocked out Mark Hominick after he aggressively charged him with a leg hook by returning a nasty straight right.
Jung loves to charge his opponents with a flurry of hooks, uppercuts and overhands. He often pushes his opponents back into the cage with punches before letting loose with a flurry of punches. Additionally, Jung likes to lead with unorthodox strikes such as the right uppercut. Strikes like these are risky because there are numerous ways to counter them, but they pay dividends if they land.
Jung doesn't always flurry with reckless abandon -- occasionally he'll focus on countering his opponents. When this is the case, Jung really likes to come over top of his opponents' jab with left hooks. While Jung's height and reach often allow him to land without getting hit, he's not opposed to simply allowing the jab to land in order to throw back.
Jung is at his best when he can get his opponents' backs to the cage. From there, he will attack with a variety of punches, knees and kicks. Due to Jung's willingness to stand in the pocket and trade, his opponents have a difficult time getting back to the center because they'll have to step through his blows in order to escape.
One of the best parts of Jung's game is his unpredictability. He's more than willing to throw risky strikes like spinning backfists or flying knees. It's hard to fight an opponent who throws head kicks as frequently as jabs simply because it's unusual.
For all of Jung's striking success, he's a very flawed striker. He almost never feints, which partially cancels out the unpredictability his wild attack gives him. Since he doesn't feint, his opponent knows that he is attacking every time he twitches. Additionally, he constantly chases his opponent but doesn't do a very good job cutting angles, meaning his opponent can circle out easily as long as they avoid getting pinned up against the cage.
Another flaw is Jung defense, or lack thereof. When he isn't striking, Jung does a decent job of staying far enough away that he can't be hit easily. However, a dearth of head movement and habit of retreating straight backwards makes him quite easy to hit if he's the one being chased. Making it even worse is the fact that Jung has a tendency to drop his hands, which is dangerous for even the best defensive fighters.
Although Jung gets hit frequently in all of his brawls, one fight stands out as the worst. George Roop managed to capitalize on each of these flaws, constantly circling to avoid Jung's heavy punches, landing many jabs on Jung's stationary head, and then finishing it with a head kick right over Jung's relaxed arms.
It's worth noting that Jung has been trying to close these holes with his revamped training, but they still exist.
Jung may be famous for his brawling, but he's really a talented grappler. With a base in Judo and competition experience in Sambo, Jung has a lot of experience working in tight.
From the clinch, Jung likes to work for over-under and then attempt a trip. Against Poirier, Jung reversed "The Diamond" with a trip from this position but sneakily set it up. Poirier was trying to grind Jung into the cage, so Jung pushed one of his arms back, almost as if he was going to throw a knee. Instead, he locked up his hands and went for an outside trip.
Another impressive takedown by Jung was his sweet foot trip on Leonard Garcia. Attempting a half-hearted single leg, Jung quickly transitioned to a single collar tie. Controlling Garcia's posture with one hand, he tripped Garcia's foot while yanking him to the side, effectively dropping him to the mat.
In addition to his clinch takedowns, Jung is very good at catching his opponent's kicks for takedowns. He caught two of Poirier's leg kicks with ease, forcing Poirier to readjust his kicking game.
Once Jung gets on top of his opponent, his ground and pound is very good, thanks to his solid posture. He likes to tie up his opponent's hand and then come down with an elbow. Another great trick he used against Poirier was to reach back like he was going for a guard pass then come down with a big punch.
While his offensive wrestling is impressive, his counter wrestling is even better. Jung's sprawl is excellent and is actually aided by his flat feet, as he always has his base under him. Under the striking section, you can see a gif of Jung defending a Poirier takedown by flipping him over into mount, a beautiful maneuver. In fact, Jung has yet to be taken down in his Zuffa career, although he hasn't faced any wrestling specialists.
Although he only holds a blue belt in jiu-jitsu, it is the strongest part of his game. Of his 13 wins, eight come via submission.
Jung has yet to be taken down inside the Octagon, but he was reversed on the ground by Poirier a couple times, who's a skilled grappler in his own right. During these times, we got to see Jung's guard game. Jung keeps an open guard and constantly feeds his opponent's hands through his legs, looking for possible triangles and arm bars.
"The Korean Zombie's" top game is very tight, and he looks to capitalize on any small mistake his opponent makes. Poirier made one error in shooting a desperation double after eating hard punches and Jung immediately capitalized by sneaking his arm around Poirier's neck and locking it up in a rear naked choke for the d'arce.
Putting all his weight on Poirier and flattening out, Poirier was asleep in seconds.
Both Jung's positional grappling and submission attempts are incredibly smooth. When he's on top, Jung flows from position to position easily maneuvering around his opponent's defenses. It's just the same when he's hunting for the tap, frequently switching between submissions.
While the d'arce and twister were beautifully done, I believe Jung's submission chaining in the second round of the Poirier fight was the most impressive display of his grappling. Before I break it down, take a second to check it out right here.
To start off his attack, Jung snatches Poirier's arm from the mount and falls back. However, he initially fails to keeps Poirier's head down with his leg, allowing Poirier to posture up. Reacting quickly, Jung goes belly down and starts hipping in. Poirier isn't finished that easily and jumps over Jung's body, before attempting to come up into guard. As he comes up, Jung throws up a triangle, but it's loose as Poirier anticipated it and blocked with his free hand.
As Poirier blocks the triangle, Jung reaches down and grabs Poirier's leg. This is very important, as it prevents Poirier from sitting up and allows Jung to go for the arm again. When Poirier comes up, Jung locks in the full triangle and begins attacking with elbows while squeezing. Poirier toughs it out and prevents Jung from getting an angle, so Jung once again goes for the arm. This time, Poirier manages to escape by the skin of his teeth.
The most famous example of Jung's grappling is his twister victory over Leonard Garcia. Jung had just taken Garcia's back and switched from standard back control to grapevine control. This means he had two of his legs twisted around one of Garcia's, locking that leg in while the other is free. Then, he grabbed Garcia's arm on the side of the free leg, meaning he was in control of both sides of Garcia's body.
With just seconds remaining, Jung wrenched Garcia's arm back and put it under his armpit. To finish, he wrapped his arms around Garcia's neck and pulled, while stretching out his lower half with his legs. This puts an extreme amount of pressure on Garcia's spine and forced him to give up.
Best chance for success
I'll be frank; it's going to be incredibly difficult for Jung to defeat Aldo on Saturday. The odds makers clearly agree with me, as Jung is a 8-1 underdog on some sites.
In order to win, Jung has to pressure Aldo and work for takedowns. Jung is very good at applying pressure but needs to be very wary of Aldo's leg kicks, as it only takes a few to severely hamper his ability. While he has shown that he can catch and counter leg kicks, Jung rarely, if ever, checks leg kicks. He absolutely has to start, or learn how to, otherwise Aldo will eat him alive.
The only place Jung has any advantages is in the clinch. If he's very cautious of Aldo's destructive knees, he can work his trips. Additionally, it'd be good for Jung to brawl with Aldo against the cage, as going for punch for punch with the champion is more likely to end well for Jung than trying to land from the outside.
Can Jung beat the odds once again, or will Aldo continue to prove he's one the best pound-for-pound fighters on the planet?