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UFC Denver preview: Jung, Rodriguez poised to breathe new life into featherweight division

No disrespect to Frankie Edgar, but it’s enough already with the title shots.

In fact, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) featherweight division has been recycling the same names for what seems like forever. Along with Edgar, former champion Jose Aldo and ex-title contender Chad Mendes have been at or near the top for over five years.

Fortunately, we already have one new name in the top five, in the form of once-beaten Renato Carneiro. While he came up short against Brian Ortega in summer 2017, “Moicano” has already turned away grizzled veterans Cub Swanson and Jeremy Stephens.

Hoping to join him in the new-look featherweight division is the winner of Chan Sung Jung vs. Yair Rodriguez. They’ll collide in the UFC Fight Night 139 main event, taking place this Saturday night (Nov. 10, 2018) inside Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado, live on FOX Sports 1.

Both have seen their share of setbacks, which is a shame, when you consider how exciting they are inside the Octagon. For Jung, it was a drubbing at the hands of Aldo in summer 2013. For Rodriguez, school was in session at UFC 211, with Prof. Edgar as his instructor.

Then came military service for Jung, as well as an untimely injury, and fight fans have seen the “Korean Zombie” just once over the last five years. But once was all he needed to remind the division he was a bad, bad man.

Just ask Dennis Bermudez, if “The Menace” can even remember what happened.

“Yair has his own style,” Jung told “He stands out. Because he’s in the same featherweight division I knew one day I would have to face him. I believe every fighter, they go through some sort of a phase. It was tough for me at first, but I’m coming back stronger, and if that’s going to drag me down, how am I able to fight?”

Rodriguez was mired in a contract dispute for most of this year and also had his fair share of injuries. “Pantera” will have been out of action roughly 18 months when the cage door closes this weekend in “Mile High City.”

Prior to the Edgar loss, Rodriguez, 26, was the winner of eight straight with four violent finishes, including his assault on former two-division champion, BJ Penn, in early 2017. That was just one of four post-fight bonuses in seven trips to the Octagon.

Jung, 31, has a whopping six post-fight bonuses, including one in all four categories (performance, submission, knockout, fight of the night).

“I’m super exited, I can’t wait for Saturday,” Rodriguez said after the UFC Denver open workouts. “It’s a fight that I wanted for a long time. My division, especially, has been crazy. It’s always good to see new faces into the game. The same faces have been in the game too long, then MMA needs new faces.”

Sure, both Jung and Rodriguez have been around the block a few times, but like that old Peter Allen song says, everything old is new again.

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