Enter the unexpected challenger, Chan Sung Jung, who will become the first Korean ever to challenge for a UFC title. Nicknamed the “Korean Zombie” due to his fearless forward-pressing fighting style, he made a controversial choice for featherweight title contention but has certainly not disappointed fans during his UFC career.
Despite Jung’s two-fight upset streak and an incredible four Fight Night bonuses in just three UFC appearances, he comes in as a massive underdog to the champ. The line favors the champ Aldo at -750, with the underdog Jung +525 on the comeback.
Tale of tape:
With some conflicting reports, Jung will come in either similarly sized or up to two inches taller than Aldo and will most definitely have a reach advantage. On the downside for Jung, he’s been out of action for well over a year, putting him into the danger range for ring rust, which drops win rates down to the near 40 percent level.
He’s also fighting a Brazilian in Brazil, which lately has not gone well for foreign-born challengers. But perhaps the Zombie-like mentality of Jung has kept him motivated in the gym and will prevent him from being rattled by the Brazilian fans.
Anyone expecting to see a statistical beat down by one of the pound-for-pound best may be disappointed here. The striking stats for Aldo and Jung are fairly even. Jung has advantages in power head-striking accuracy and overall significant-striking pace. If he can use his reach and cardio effectively, these are considerable assets.
But Aldo has advantages of his own, specifically in knockdown power and striking defense. Head-striking defense for Jung is not only worse than Aldo’s, it’s actually worse than average. Remembering the back-and-forth war he had with Leonard Garcia, Jung needs to tighten up his defense if he hopes to stand and trade with Aldo for long.
Neither fighter attempts frequent takedowns but Jung has the better success rate. What’s more important is that both fighters have very good takedown defense, meaning it’s not likely that they will end up on the ground until perhaps some fatigue sets in (for Aldo).
Once on the ground, Aldo brings the credentials of a BJJ black belt into the cage, even though we have rarely seen much use of this aspect of his game. Jung, while without the same pedigree of grappling, has won some spectacular Submission of the Night bonuses in his short UFC career.
While on paper, a Brazilian champion with a BJJ black belt defending on his home turf may seem like invisible force, analysis shows that it’s not the toss-up the betting line suggests. Either fighter being submitted is unlikely.
This fight should stay standing thanks to solid takedown defense for both fighters. While Jung surprised me with good performance statistics, the context of his opponents must be accounted for. His striking stats may be inflated by his battles with Garcia (who statistically has terrible striking defense), while Jung’s cardio helped him through his most recent opponent, Dustin Poirier.
Aldo remains the more dangerous fighter out of the gate with skill advantages in basically every category. He can mix up his strikes, work the legs, and has the kind of explosive power that makes for a perfect foil to any straight-ahead fighter.
Jung’s only chance to win this will be to use his range and size to score points, then grind Aldo down along the fence. Late in the fight, he might get more openings if Aldo is unable to maintain his stamina. But these are all big “ifs.”
More than likely, at some point in the first couple rounds, Jung will walk into some strikes that will rock him and set up a finish by the champ.
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Reed Kuhn writes for MMAOddsbreaker.com and runs Fightnomics.com. Follow him on Twitter @Fightnomics.