Former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight kingpin, Max Holloway, will throw down opposite fan favorite finisher, Chan Sung Jung (a.k.a. “The Korean Zombie”), this Saturday (Aug. 26, 2023) at UFC Singapore inside Singapore Indoor Arena in Kallang, Singapore.
Does this 145-pound showdown make a lick of sense? For one half of the equation, yes. UFC is growing tired of Holloway killing potential Volkanovski challengers, which is the reason Ilia Topuria gets to side-step “Blessed” for a “Great” showdown. Why run the risk of a match up fight ruined? A potential new champion shouldn’t have to beat Holloway and Volkanovski to be king — that’s a tall ask!
For Jung, however, it’s a baffling potential retirement fight. I understand “Korean Zombie” wanted a stiff challenge, but sometimes we ignore fighter’s desires for their own well-being. He enters this fight a huge underdog, and the chances of riding into the sunset on a win seem perilously low.
All the same, let’s take a closer look at their skill sets:
Holloway is one of the greatest high-volume strikers in mixed martial arts (MMA) history. It’s been a lot of fun to watch Holloway’s technical skill develop from a young talent who loved flying strikes to one of the sport’s best boxers.
He still may throw the occasional spinning kicks and jump knees, but none of that would matter without the base from which he builds. Look at his original title win over Jose Aldo, where a one-two combination, pull, one-two combination ended the Brazilian’s night. That mix of straight shots and pulls is the core of Holloway’s game and seems simple enough, but Holloway lands often because of his snappy punches and range control (GIF).
Boxing begins with the jab, and Holloway uses his jab quite well to control range. Opposite shorter men looking to close the distance — a fair number of his foes — Holloway’s footwork and jab are enough to maintain distance. Against fighters willing to strike from the outside, Holloway moves in behind his jab well to set up his combinations (like in the above Jose Aldo .GIF). Hooking off the jab is a signature technique of Holloway. Holloway digs to the liver off the jab commonly, and his right hand that follows the jab-hook has a great chance of landing.
Against Brian Ortega, Holloway repeatedly nailed the Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace by shifting his stance while firing straight punches (GIF), extending the combinations until he was landing at will. After the cross, he would slip his head off the center line — avoiding whatever single punch counter Ortega fired back — and transition into the opposite stance simultaneously. Often, another one-two combination followed.
One of Holloway’s most consistent strategies is body work, which builds upon his usual range and cardio advantages. As he shifts stances and confuses his foe’s defense, he’ll look to time his opponent leaning back or covering up high with strikes to the mid-section.
Holloway is a smart kicker with a wide variety of techniques. He’s settled down a lot in the last few years, as he now sticks to well set up roundhouse kicks much of the time. For example, he’ll get his foe moving backward or take an angle before chopping at the leg. In addition, Holloway will take advantage of being in the opposite stance of his opponent and attack with power kicks to the body (GIF). Thanks to his ability to shift stances so fluidly while pressing forward, those body kicks can really surprise opponents.
Another excellent technique that works the body is Holloway’s spinning back kick. He sets up the strike well, too. Usually, he’ll attack with the spin when his opponent is trying to take a breather or is backed into the fence, as he’s more likely to land (GIF). Holloway has began throwing the spinning wheel kick as well, which builds off the threat of the back kick.
Holloway’s trio of battles with Volkanovski were really interesting. Holloway’s big issue in the first fight was that he was out-kicked by a shorter, quicker opponent. As Holloway stepped forward and looked to box, Volkanovski remained mobile, kicking the inside leg or coming over the top with his right hand. The Hawaiian was a more predictable target, and his performance suffered.
“Blessed” did, however, make great adjustments in the second fight. Namely, he was more active with kicks rather than pressure. Volkanovski still landed some good low kicks, but when they were not enough to cleanly win the distance battle, he was forced to lead more often. Holloway did well to counter his shorter foe with uppercuts. In addition, when Holloway did back his foe into the fence, he was better able to capitalize by kicking, making the most of his range.
By the third, however, it really seemed like Volkanovski had his opponent’s timing figured out ... and perhaps Holloway was a bit slower. Whatever the case, Volkanovski was landing hard counters early and often, which upset Holloway’s rhythm and stopped him from ever really making the fight competitive.
While Holloway is king of volume, Jung is a power puncher with a real knack for timing his opponents.
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 slipping 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.
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 ended quickly as the 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 (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. In recent years, he’s been getting countered more often while trying to march forward, a result of a decline in speed and the availability of tape on “The Korean Zombie.”
Safe to say, this section will be a bit shorter for both men.
That said, Jung is Judo black belt. 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).
In a much more recent example, Jung secured his most recent win by out-wrestling Dan Ige. It was a surprising switch up, one that saw Jung repeatedly nail the timing on his reactive double leg takedown. He also did well wrestling the double along the fence, a new wrinkle to his game that capitalized on his physicality.
Similarly, there are only a couple opponents against whom Holloway really used offensive takedowns: Anthony Pettis and Yair Rodriguez. He utilized a crafty step behind trip opposite Pettis, sliding his lead leg behind Pettis’ then backing him over it. It was a lower energy way to trip Pettis to the mat and further assert his dominance, as well as cause Pettis to burn up the gas tank by scrambling back to his feet (GIF). This is more of a striking sweep than wrestling technique, but the end result is the same!
Against the Rodriguez, Holloway repeatedly advanced behind a high right hand and extended lead arm, placing his palm in Rodriguez’s chest. This is a classic and safe Muay Thai strategy, as it can off-balance an opponent as they attempt to kick/knee. Several times, Holloway was able to shove Rodriguez to canvas, and other times, he disrupted his stance then let some punches fly. Sometimes, he combined the chest push with a single leg pick up, Frankie Edgar style.
A jiu-jitsu black belt with nine tap out finishes, Jung is the more prolific grappler of the two. In fact, the most famous finish of Jung’s career came via twister, 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).
Holloway, meanwhile, has become known for a dangerous guillotine choke. His first guillotine finish came at the end of a back-and-forth battle with Andre Fili. After hurting the Californian with a spinning kick to the body, Holloway moved in and fired off a combination. The wounded Fili shot in for a single-leg takedown, and Holloway seized the opportunity by snatching his neck and falling into the choke. When Fili attempted to roll out, Holloway continued to apply pressure and forced the tap (GIF).
A couple years later, Holloway repeatedly attacked Cub Swanson with the same guillotine. Holloway rocked and dropped Swanson multiple times in their bout, and he usually followed him to the mat and tried to force the choke. In the third round, Holloway finally locked it in and advanced into mount. From there, he cranked on his opponent’s neck and broken jaw until “Killer Cub” submitted (GIF).
Ultimately, this is going to be a really fun fight between beloved fighters. It may not be likely that Jung sails away on a win, but walking away after a great fight feels like a guarantee.
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.
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