Reality Check: The Korean Zombie Isn't Competition for Jose Aldo at UFC 163
Heading into his title shot against UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo at UFC 163, Chan-Sung Jung has described his nickname as both a "blessing and a curse." Well, on Saturday night, the "Korean Zombie" will be moving forward straight into the line of fire—don't expect Aldo to leave him standing.
We should all come to terms with that before the fight even gets underway.
Jung is as equally surprised with the unexpected title shot as is the rest of the MMA community; featherweight contender Ricardo Lamas was running an impressive four-fight win streak when Aldo's original opponent, Anthony Pettis, was injured and pulled from the highly anticipated title bout.
Yet for reasons unclear, here we are with the Korean Zombie's gifted title shot.
To be unequivocally clear, I should clarify that Jung is a perennial fan favorite for good reason—his nickname finds its origin in his constantly forward-moving style. Regardless of how hard he's blasted, the Zombie rarely goes down. An admirable trait—to be sure—and certainly one that leads to memorable Octagon outings. Few can forget Jung's first bout with Leonard Garcia, a fight riveting enough for UFC commentator Joe Rogan to deem it the "Fight of the Decade."
Looking back, though, it was a nightmare of a fight style to ever present against a tactician like Aldo. Garcia and Jung duked it out recklessly over the course of three rounds at WEC 48—neither man was willing to disengage from the multitude of exchanges. Haymakers were thrown endlessly and without much concern for accuracy.
Exciting stuff, to be sure.
But when the rematch was announced for UFC Fight Night 24, MMA analysts questioned whether either fighter had patched up the sloppier deficiencies in their fight games. Korean Zombie would infamously walk away with the UFC's one-and-only twister submission, but—far more relevant to his title shot against Aldo on Saturday night—he also revealed that he wasn't concerned with a controlled approach to fighting.
Let's take a look at the exchanges leading up to the eventual submission win:
Notice how heavily Jung distributes weight on his lead leg—a frightening proposition when you consider Aldo's track record of shredding thighs to pieces. Just ask Urijah Faber. Worse yet, once Garcia started to fall back into his tried-and-true method of swinging haymakers like windmills, he also started catching Jung with surprising consistency. By the time the first round came to a close, Jung was already cut under the eye.
When all is said and done, Jung went through two wars with Garcia, a fighter who was booted out of the UFC after five consecutive losses and the same fighter who showed a pathological disregard for proper striking offense and defense.
There's also a telling loss on Korean Zombie's record that took place between the Garcia fights—Jung was absolutely starched by George Roop. And don't even dare to label that defeat as an "innocent mistake." Roop began to initiate the footwork necessary for a high kick, whereas Jung opted to plant both feet and lazily wing a left hook. Fractions of a moment later, a left high kick acted as the headshot needed to down the zombie.
But perhaps it's those very same issues that have won over droves of fans in his favor.
He presses forward with seemingly unrelenting cardio and the knowledge that his ground game is to be feared. In that regard, even the most dominant featherweights should respect his unusual fight style.
But Aldo is a considerable step above the normal standard of measure for a UFC featherweight.
His lethal uppercuts are tailor-made for Jung's tendency to weave and dodge while tilting at the hips. Remember how I mentioned Korean Zombie's flat-footed style that results in an emphasis on the lead leg? Yeah, Aldo will likely capitalize on that weakness inside of one round.
All of the minutiae add up to the perfect recipe for Aldo's success. Even the stats, courtesy of Reed Kuhn, reveal the likely conclusion on Saturday night.
Bleacher Report's own Jack Slack provided a brilliant technical breakdown of the bout. Even when speaking of Jung's admirable head movement, he couldn't help but mention his tendency to get hit:
The unfortunate side effect of owning good head movement is it encourages a fighter to commit to exchanges far more often. Consequently, their opponent misses plenty of punches, but even connecting at a low percentage, the strikes rapidly add up. Leonard Garcia would hit Jung clean with the fourth or fifth punches of his salvos as Jung got sloppy late in exchanges.
Regardless of his exact method, Jung notoriously gets hit. Historically speaking, Aldo doesn't necessarily hit often, but when he does, he makes sure it counts.
Perfect performances are few and far between in the UFC. Even the most premier fighters misstep over the course of any given contest. Add in the extra ten minutes afforded by the championship rounds and you're left with an overwhelming amount of time to execute with flawless precision.
Though he's shown marked improvement over the course of his recent, three-fight win streak, Korean Zombie isn't the archetype for what I'd confidently describe as a precision fighter. And that realization, in and of itself, seals his fate on Saturday night.
He'll be squaring off against a fearsome featherweight champion, one who'll engage him with the added confidence of a 15-fight unbeaten streak. Aldo is the manifestation of Zombie's nightmare—he's not a volume striker but, instead, a multifaceted combatant who attacks with near-surgical precision.
Who wins Aldo vs Korean Zombie and how?
Four-ounce gloves have always been MMA's great equalizer, so, of course, the main event at UFC 163 could prospectively end in favor of either of these great fighters. In theory, the Korean Zombie could be fueled by another fight that sees him as the underdog. He could even wear down the champion over the course of several rounds.
Don't hold your breath, though.
The UFC featherweight championship fight at UFC 163 is worth your time and money not as an evenly matched contest but, instead, as another devastating display of Aldo's arsenal. It's not a matter of if but more a matter of how.
I'm tuning in to see the champion put the Korean Zombie out of his misery. Trust me when I say that you should do the same.
Artem Moshkovich is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter for MMA news and more.
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