Two of the most exciting and dangerous featherweights in the world will collide tomorrow night (Aug. 3, 2013) as UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo puts his title on the line against "The Korean Zombie" Chan Sung Jung in the main event of UFC 163 in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
Aldo has already defended his featherweight title four times, most recently skating by former lightweight titleholder Frankie Edgar with a close decision victory to retain his belt. He had an opponent change when Anthony Pettis dropped out, but he's looking to continue his reign of dominance and hopefully open up some doors at lightweight as well.
Jung returns from well over a year layoff and has been thrust firmly into the title picture. The fan-favorite has a fighting style all his own and is hoping the special wrinkles in his game will be enough to confuse and hopefully punish the champion.
Record: 22-1 overall, 4-0 in the UFC
Key Losses: none
How he got here: After making waves in Brazil, Aldo migrated to the WEC and immediately began wrecking the place. He tore through his first four WEC bouts with deadly striking and decided to cap it off by earning a title shot with an unbelievable eight second knockout of Cub Swanson at WEC 41. Believe it or not, the time of the knockout was the least impressive part of it. Aldo flew through the air and connected on poor Swanson's chin with not one but two flying knees at once and finished the stunned striker off with quick ground and pound.
The Brazilian made the most of his opportunity and manhandled then-champion Mike Brown, finishing the turtling titleholder with ground and pound from behind. His victory set up a WEC super-fight with the incredibly popular former champion Urijah Faber at WEC 48. "Scarface" would work a different gameplan for that fight, massacring Faber's legs with sharp kicks until they turned into linguine and "The California Kid's" corner needed to carry him to his stool in between rounds.
After the UFC/WEC merger, Aldo was handed the UFC featherweight title and got an opportunity to defend it against Mark Hominick. The Brazilian won a hard-fought battle over the course of five rounds in a "Fight of the Night"-winning performance. He followed that up by outworking a persistent Kenny Florian for five more rounds to retain his belt.
The diverse striker returned to form last year, knocking Chad Mendes out with one second remaining in the first round in what was truly a star-making performance. He returned from injury to defend his belt against former lightweight champ Frankie Edgar in a bout where he was once again tested.
Now, he's hoping to showcase his dominant ways fighting back home in Brazil against Jung.
How he gets it done: Jose Aldo has a very diverse set of skills. He's got heavy hands and some of the nastiest leg kicks in all of MMA.
Look for Aldo to try to keep this fight standing and really go to work with his kicks and counter punches. He does a terrific job, perhaps as good as anyone in the UFC, of closing off combinations with leg kicks. If he can connect a few times, it's going to slow "The Korean Zombie" down and that could do anything from set up a leg kick TKO or simply turn Jung into a limping punching bag. If Jung begins to lose some of his lateral quickness, the champion could swoop in with a flying knee or some other devastating frontal attack.
If taken down, Aldo needs to do whatever it takes to pop back to his feet. Sure he has a decent ground game in his own right, but he gets tired when he fights on the ground too long and it's not worth the risk against a pretty competent ground fighting opponent.
Striking defense is not one of Jung's strong suits. If Aldo can connect with something solidly and hurt him, he absolutely can go for broke and get the finish.
Chan Sung Jung
Record: 13-3 overall, 3-0 in the UFC
Key Losses: George Roop (WEC 51)
How he got here: Hailing from Korea, Chan Sung Jung made a huge splash in the MMA landscape when he made his professional debut in 2007. With a strong background in taekwondo, kickboxing, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and even Russian combat sambo, he had the skills to dominate lesser foes.
He quickly earned a reputation for his constant aggression and his mentality of taking a punch to give one, earning the nickname "The Korean Zombie." After a run in Sengoku where he was robbed of a victory by biased judges who favored Japanese fighters over Koreans, he was signed by WEC and made his debut on Spike TV prelims against Leonard Garcia.
We all know how that turned out, one of the wildest sloppiest and most entertaining fights in the history of the sport, although he would once again lose a controversial decision. The talented Korean would learn a rough lesson in his next fight against George Roop when his style played right into the hands of the lanky American who knocked him out with a vicious head kick.
Jung earned his revenge against Leonard Garcia with a "Submission of the Year"-winning twister and he followed that up with a seven second knockout against former title challenger Mark Hominick, the second fastest knockout in UFC history.
The Korean Top Team fighter coralled all that momentum into a title shot when he defeated featherweight phenom Dustin Poirier in his first main event last year. He lost some steam due to a lengthy injury layoff, but the UFC 163 main event fell into his hands when Anthony Pettis backed out and he was more than happy to substitute himself into the title bout opposite Aldo.
How he gets it done: Jung has strong striking skills and some surprising power as evidenced by his lightning quick knockout of Hominick.
But while "The Korean Zombie" has some nice knockouts, it's his ground game that will likely be the key here. Somehow, someway, he needs to close the distance on Aldo and try to drag the champion to the ground whether it's with a trip, brute force or whatever. He has a very potent and unique ground attack, capable of tapping out several top level fighters.
Even if he can't submit Aldo, he can wear him down. Ground fighting is a whole different type of conditioning and the only time Aldo ever really gassed in a fight was when he had a rough weight cut paired with a significant amount of ground fighting. Perhaps Jung could repeat history with the Hominick fight if he plays his cards right.
What Jung doesn't want to do is wade forward recklessly throwing haymakers like he did against Garcia the first time around. Sure, that style will make the crowd go wild, but against someone as technical and powerful as Aldo, he's be putting a gigantic target on his chin and he likely wouldn't last very long.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest X-Factor for this bout is the lengthy layoff for "The Korean Zombie." Thankfully he was able to get some experience in a five round fight during his last bout, but that was well over a year ago. He suffered a significant injury and Aldo has since defeated one of the pound for pound best fighters on the planet in Frankie Edgar. It'll be very interesting to see how Jung responds to the ring rust.
Bottom Line: There's no such thing as a boring fight with Chan Sung Jung. Every time he steps into the Octagon, something amazing happens whether he gets knocked out, has the fight of the year (twice) or has the submission of the year. He will make Aldo work and this bout is going to be incredible. How long it lasts is entirely up to his own defense and tendencies but you'll enjoy every second. I guarantee it.
Who will come out on top at UFC 163? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!