Chan Sung Jung will return to the Octagon for the first time since his shocking knockout loss to Yair Rodriguez in November, as he takes on Renato Carneiro in the UFC Fight Night 154 main event on Saturday at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, South Carolina. Despite the defeat, Jung remains one of the most interesting fighters the 145-pound weight class has to offer, and a win over “Moicano” could put him back on the short list of legitimate featherweight title contenders.
The exploits of “The Korean Zombie” are under the microscope in this edition of The Film Room.
Jung may wield one of the best nicknames in the history of MMA, but most new fans do not know much about him, let alone his reputation. He earned the moniker during his World Extreme Cagefighting days for his ability to plod forward with aggressive combos while eating his opponents strikes like they were nothing. In his famous first fight with Leonard Garcia, the two routinely bit down on their mouthpieces and traded wild hooks in the pocket for three full rounds. Early in his career, Jung was an untamed striker; he remains so today but with much cleaner technique and a bit more patience. Usually, fighters that stand and trade in the pocket do not make it far at the highest levels, but as he has grown as a fighter, Jung has taken a more intelligent approach to this aggressive style. The differences were clear in the exchanges with Garcia and the exchanges with Dustin Poirier. Against Garcia, Jung dropped his head and threw wild hooks. Against Poirier, he jabbed more, mixed up his strikes and exited the pocket before the American Top Team standout could fire back.
Jung’s zombie-like style is difficult enough to deal with, but he also keeps his hands in an awkward position, which allows his punches to come in at odd angles and catch opponents off-guard. Generally, it is best to keep your hands high and tight by your head, but Jung does the exact opposite and carries his hands low and wide. He favors a simple lead hook to right straight combo on the lead, but he will also mix in the occasional body shot and kick. It would be encouraging to see him mix up his hands more and throw more kicks, especially to the legs, but his aggressiveness, ability to take a punch and simple combos have been enough to find success in the Octagon.
Since Jung keeps coming forward no matter how much damage he has taken, he often finds himself in the clinch, where he possesses terrific knees to the head and body. Something to note about Jung’s clinch game is how he initiates it. When wildly trading in the pocket, a fighter is bound to miss some punches. He uses this to his advantage. On some of these missed punches, his hand will wind up on the opponent’s shoulder or behind the head, where he can quickly grab the plum clinch and fire off knees. This is something upon which Daniel Cormier has built his career -- a simple yet tricky way to initiate the clinch. He would benefit from using the clinch more during these wild exchanges, as it might allow him to slow the pace and find some room to breathe and reset the action.
Jung is not much of a counterstriker, but he does possess a beautiful intercepting jab that halts opponents from advancing. Since he keeps his rear hand low, his jab comes up through a blind angle and can be incredibly hard to see or time correctly. In his return fight with Dennis Bermudez, he won by knockout with a counter rear uppercut, showing yet another wrinkle he developed during his time off. People forget that Jung was still training every day during his four-year hiatus from the sport, so he likely incorporated new techniques in the gym.
Jung’s striking garners much of the attention, but his grappling prowess may be the most proficient aspect of his game. Of his 14 wins, eight have come by submission, including the first and only successful twister in Ultimate Fighting Championship history. Jung holds the rank of brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu but operates at a higher level inside the cage. Carneiro has struggled on the ground in the past, so if Jung fails to find success on the feet, expect a takedown and a quick submission attempt.