Chan Sung Jung does not fight like most of his peers. He’s one of those special athletes whose stance is so unique that he can be easily identified from an outline of his posture.
In a division that values movement, Jung plants his lead leg and leans heavily on the limb. Calf kicks, the weapon of 2021? Jung seemingly isn’t worried about them. Almost all of the top Featherweights — from Max Holloway to Alexander Volkanovski to Zabit Magomedsharipov — throw at a tremendously high volume, usually in a combination.
Set in his stance and firmly grounded, Jung is very willing to potshot with a sharp counter or well-timed low kick. Historically, Jung has also been quite happy to surge forward with stance-shifting combinations, but that aspect of his attack was noticeably absent from his bout last night vs. Dan Ige.
A more calculated “Zombie” walked to the cage last night. Twice in the last three years, Jung’s aggression and style of attack has lead him to brutal losses. The Yair Rodriguez defeat was particularly heavy, both in how nastily Jung was floored and the unnecessary nature of the entire defeat. Brian Ortega’s own elbow-fueled win seemed to further confirm the lesson for Jung: it’s dangerous to lead.
What’s remarkable is that Jung prevented this idea from sinking into his performances for so long. After all, Jung is a remarkably counter puncher, and counter fighting specialists know more than anybody else just how many openings there are when an opponent fires. Despite that insider knowledge, Jung threw himself into the fire repeatedly for years.
It seems that enough was enough. Jung reconfigured his approach to cut out his marching combinations as much as possible. Instead, the South Korean veteran relied heavily on his lead hand to initiate offense, firing off stinging jabs and jumping hooks. If the right hand did follow, that was punctuation, rather than the beginning of a six-punch combo.
As a result, Jung ate relatively few counter shots. He was able to pick his shots from the outside, most notably the jab, calf kick, and counter right hand, and outwork Ige. When the Hawaiian really pressed him, Jung would change levels or catch a kick to score top position. As an added bonus, Jung’s defensive wrestling was ON FIRE for the entire fight.
Jung remained very measured for 25 minutes last night, making the most of his range advantage and distance tools to nullify a man really determined to win. He did his best to avoid dangerous situations, refusing to over-extend himself and scoring takedowns whenever the momentum began to shift towards Ige.
It was a great performance. But, the big picture question remains: is a calculated Jung better off in regards to the title hunt?
Other fighters can punish Jung’s newfound patience. An athlete like the aforementioned Holloway or Volkanovski is not going to walk into counters quite as often as Ige, who was a shorter man without much of a consistent kicking game. Instead, they’ll feint and fire in combination, at which point angling off behind a jab or left hook doesn’t cut it ... as Jung found it in the final frame.
Against the best, Jung will need more varied offense.
At the same time, Jung cannot go back to brawling — we know that much. So while this was a definite step in the right direction, there are still improvements to be made if the 34 year old is to challenge for the title again.
For complete UFC Vegas 29: “Jung vs. Ige” results and play-by-play, click HERE!