One of the most exciting men on the roster, Chan Sung Jung, will throw down opposite heavy-handed Hawaiian, Dan Ige, this Saturday (June 19, 2021) at UFC Vegas 29 inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Two brutal knockouts over top contenders in less than five minutes total saw Jung enter 2020 with a great deal of momentum, and he seemed very likely to secure a title shot in the near future. Unfortunately, the rebirth of Brian Ortega came at the cost of Jung’s win streak, as the South Korean was largely battered by his foe’s newfound kickboxing prowess (watch highlights). Where does that leave Jung in 2021? The answer seems largely dependent on the outcome of Saturday night’s battle, which decides whether “The Korean Zombie” is back in the title mix or relegated to action fights.
Let’s take a closer look at his skill set:
Jung has one of the more unique striking styles. He operates largely in explosive moments, either releasing massive punches on the counter or charging his opponent with marching combinations.
Because of his low hand position, Jung’s primary form of defense is head movement. While fresh, Jung does a very nice job of punching while getting his head off the center line. Both on offense and defense, the dipping jab is a favorite technique of his. When pushing forward, Jung will use this spearing jab to bait his opponent into ducking into an uppercut or leaning back into overhand.
The dipping jab works quite well on an advancing foe as well. Against Dustin Poirier, for example, Jung repeatedly gave ground as “The Diamond” pushed forward, but Poirier kept his head perfectly still and stood fairly tall. Jung’s slip may not be a guarantee that his foe’s punches will miss, but it gives him a decent chance, whereas his hard jab finds its mark far more often than not. Interestingly, Jung’s scrap with Dennis Bermudez saw a pair of devoted dipping jabbers clash, making it a battle of Jung’s reach vs. Bermudez’s lower angle of attack.
The way Jung applies his right hand is another interesting technique. He is deceptively quick with the strike, which allows Jung to enter the pocket before his opponent expects. Before firing from his right side, Jung will often lower his level, loading up for the explosive movement. Springing into a long cross is the first option from this position, but Jung will read his opponent as well. If they lower levels as well, he’ll look for the uppercut, whereas a jab from his opponent could prompt a slip and overhand from the South Korean.
After firing the cross, Jung will follow up with a rolling left hook or a more punches from within the clinch (GIF). In addition, Jung makes great use of both the cross counter and pull and return cross (GIF). Both are classic uses for a sharp right hand and strong timing, skills which Jung has sharpened by spending so much time working in the pocket.
Jung’s bout with Renato Moicano did not last long as a result of a perfect right hand. More than that, Jung was able to end the bout so quickly because he identified a weakness in Renato Moicano and capitalized perfectly. Jung and his camp knew that the Brazilian would be looking to establish the jab early, and Moicano also has a habit of boxing too tall. When Moicano fired the jab they knew would come, Jung fired a perfect cross counter that smashed into his foe’s jaw, and the follow up left hook connected for good measure as well.
I can practically guarantee Jung drilled that specific counter a ridiculous number of times, and it paid off (GIF).
Jung game planned similarly well opposite Frankie Edgar. Aside from showing a long jab and left hook, “Korean Zombie” simply waited for Edgar to come to him. The veteran has a habit of attacking on a straight line, and being the far more powerful puncher, Jung was willing to simply stand his ground and check Edgar’s defense with hooks. The left hook proved his kill shot in this fight, finding Edgar’s chin over top Edgar’s own right cross multiple times en route to the finish (GIF).
Often, Jung will switch stances or utilize marching footwork in his combination (GIF), which allows for an extra bit of distance to be covered and provides punches with considerable power. While this has led to many effective blitzes from Jung, it has also cost him severely in his two most recent defeats.
Against Yair Rodriguez, Jung ran directly into the freakiest counter elbow in the history of the sport in the final seconds of the bout — a strange enough outcome that it was easy to write it off as fluke-y. However, Ortega proved the concept repeatedly, using rangy kicks and patience to convince Jung to charge forward swinging when the counter punch wasn’t there.
Time and time again, Ortega was able to sidestep his foe’s wide swings. Initially, Ortega was content enough to avoid and score his range strikes, but it didn’t take long for him to dial in his own counter punches. Whether the left hook or spinning elbow, Jung’s charges were repeatedly interrupted and countered, often while his feet were between stances.
When Jung hung back and traded a bit more patiently, he tended to do better, but he couldn’t avoid his own aggression.
The uppercut has grown to become something of Jung signature as well. On the counter, Jung does a nice job of slipping outside the jab and returning the right uppercut. Though that technique is more commonly seen in boxing, it works well for Jung opposite fighters who lean over their lead leg.
In truth, Jung’s uppercut knockout of Dennis Bermudez should’ve been somewhat easy to see coming. Bermudez has been stunned many times while leaning over his lead leg, as he does a nice job dipping his head during the jab but keeps it there for too long. Jung set up the uppercut well, dipping and loading the cross two or three times. Once he noticed Bermudez was ducking beneath the right hand, Jung switched to a right uppercut and found his mark (GIF). This approach is a quality double-threat from the South Korean, one he’s used prior to the Bermudez fight as well (GIF).
Aside from his skill in the pocket, Jung has shown some strong kicking technique in the past, even if he rarely relies upon it. This was most notably in his bout with Poirier, as his foe’s Southpaw stance opened lots of opportunities. He scored with hard roundhouse kicks to the body — often underneath Poirier’s cross — as well as stepping knees and the occasional snap kick.
A Judo black belt, Jung has proven to be quite crafty at landing his takedowns inside the Octagon. It’s not an aspect of his game that he turns to often, but Jung’s ability to dictate where the fight takes place has been successful against just about everyone aside from Jose Aldo. Even after being shaken up by a pair of knockdowns, Jung defended or scrambled from Ortega’s takedowns quite well.
From the clinch, Jung’s timing is excellent. He attempted a pair of takedowns from that position opposite Poirier in very different circumstances, and both were well-executed. In one, Jung caught Poirier backing straight up with fairly flat feet, making it easy for him to transition directly from the cross into a body lock slam. In the second example, Jung took advantage of Poirier’s exposed lead leg, distracting Poirier by controlling his wrist before dropping his weight as he hooked the outside of Poirier’s leg (GIF).
Lastly, Jung scored a slick foot sweep in his second match with 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.
A Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt with nine wins via tapout, Jung is a very opportunistic and aggressive submission fighter.
Jung is quite tricky from both top position and his back. From the guard, Jung is incredibly active, stabbing at his opponent with elbows while constantly looking to jam one of his opponent’s arms between his legs to set up a triangle. Once the head and arm are trapped, Jung will quickly transition into the arm bar and back to the triangle as necessary, always looking to finish one of the holds.
In addition, Jung showed off the power of butterfly hooks as a defensive tool. After rocking Poirier, Jung’s foe managed to get in deep on a double leg, driving forward before Jung could effectively sprawl. Rather than concede position, Jung went with his opponent’s momentum, using the butterfly hooks to roll Poirier into mount.
The most famous finish of Jung’s career came via twister (watch it), the first in UFC history and a pretty perfect display of how the submission works. The twister is a back or spinal crank, one that locks an opponent’s lower half into place before twisting the head/neck in unpleasant fashion. First, Jung secured his opponent in place with single leg back control, locking down that one leg with both of his leg. Once that single-leg control is in place, Jung reaches around Garcia’s head and traps Garcia’s arm behind his back, allowing him to apply pressure to the crank.
Jung’s d’arce choke finish was also pretty slick. After crushing a wounded Poirier under a heavy sprawl, Jung quickly slid his outside arm around Poirier’s head and arm. Locking in the rear-naked choke grip, Jung applied a twisting pressure to force Poirier to his back. From that position, Jung was able to drop his weight on Poirier’s neck while squeezing, putting “The Diamond” to sleep quickly (GIF).
Finally, it’s worth-mentioning just how brutally Jung flattened out Edgar from back mount. He applied seriously heavy hip pressure, using double underhooks to stretch Edgar out on several occasions. It’s at testament to the New Jersey-native’s toughness that he survived those positions, but Jung was nevertheless able to sock him from that terrible spot, and he showed great technique in doing so.
Jung is once again at a crossroads. At 34 years of age, the South Korean veteran is not young for the 145-pound division. In Ige, he faces a hard-nosed slugger not unlike himself, so this match up will really test whether or not Jung stands atop that ladder.
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Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt, is a professional fighter who trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport’s most elite fighters.