UFC featherweight Chan Sung Jung, affectionately known as "The Korean Zombie", is paired with his most prestigious opponent to date at UFC 140: Jones vs. Machida in Toronto. He'll face Mark Hominick, the former number-one contender who is fresh off an unsuccessful yet impressive title shot in which he made Jose Aldo look more mortal than ever before. Hominick is the eighth-ranked featherweight in the world, one of the most experienced and technical fighters in the division and, as a native of Ontario, Canada, will also have the hometown crowd behind him.
"I know that I'm a big underdog in this fight," Chan Sung Jung admitted during a Bloody Elbow exclusive interview while perusing the betting lines that slant Hominick as high as a -600 favorite. "I'd just like to say to everyone: Wait and see!"
The Korean Zombie's humble forewarning, however, is quite unnecessary. Regardless of Hominick's lofty status or advantages on paper, Jung has already cemented himself as a can't-miss, fan favorite in his short stint in the limelight.
Two of his three performances under the Zuffa banner have been chiseled into the annals of MMA history. The first, in his North American debut against brawler Leonard Garcia at WEC 48, was widely assessed as a "Fight of the Decade" candidate for the internecine, back and forth lunacy that ensued. In their rematch at UFC Fight Night 24, Jung stole the spotlight again by avenging the controversial loss in style with the UFC's first-ever submission by Twister. "Yes, I really learned it from Youtube," Jung confessed after the dramatic outcome.
While inspiring the masses and rapidly accruing a dedicated fanbase are rare and laudable honors, his indelible feats have also burdened him with some big shoes to fill.
"I do feel a bit of pressure to perform when I'm out there," Jung offered on the high expectations. "Honestly, I've only had three fights in the U.S. and there's been a lot of attention paid to some of the things that have happened in those fights. So, sometimes it does weigh on my mind. But once the fight starts, those things tend to go out the window."
Chan Sung Jung discusses training with Ben Henderson, Hominick's technical kickboxing and the key variables of the match up in the full entry.
The overwhelming consensus on their collision at UFC 140 has been that Hominick's fundamentally flawless striking will be too much for Jung, who has an affinity for taking risks and attacking with intractable aggression.
"Hominick's striking is very good. Everyone knows that," Jung shared on his opponent's perceived advantage. "I'm confident in my striking as well, so I think the fight makes for a fun match up. I've prepared for his technical striking and my comparatively unorthodox style could present problems for him. In MMA you never know what's going to happen once you step into the Octagon."
Anyone who was unsure how Jung became known as "The Korean Zombie" got their answer in his first match with Garcia, where Jung trudged forward fearlessly and was apparently oblivious to the countless punches that bounced off his chin. Unfortunately, the admirable trait that quickly distinguished him would also serve as his undoing against the sharp kickboxing of George Roop, who separated him from consciousness for the first time in the UFC, his MMA career, and his entire life. The heart-breaking knockout forced Jung to go back to the drawing board and reinvent himself as a fighter.
The first stages of this metamorphosis were recognizing and repairing some of the flaws in his audacious, balls-to-the-wall style and changing up his camp with a visit to Team Alpha Male to train with Urijah Faber and company. For UFC 140, Jung was slightly hampered with recovering from surgery after the Roop fight and decided to stick to his roots at the Korean Top Team.
"This time I trained at my home camp, Korean Top Team. I did a lot of things to train specifically for Mark Hominick. Unfortunately, the camp wasn't as long as I would have liked it to be, since we were in the process of moving gyms and I was coming off wrist surgery, but I still feel like it was a good camp." Still, his preparations were far from ordinary because of a special appearance from top lightweight contender Benson Henderson.
"Training with him, you can definitely see that he has the makings of a champion. He has all the tools and the desire. It was a great experience and I hope we get to train together again in the future," Jung said of the experience. "We had met each other at WEC 48, in Sacramento, which was my US debut. We immediately had a connection because Ben is half Korean and he's really proud of his Korean heritage. So, we had invited him to stop by the gym whenever he was in Korea."
Closing with some of Jung's specific thoughts on the Hominick match up, the rarely mentioned aspect of their wrestling skills was asserted as a potentially pivotal factor.
"Wrestling is something that I'm always working on and this fight was no exception," the Korean responded. "I worked hard on my wrestling for this fight, too. I think that Hominick's defensive wrestling -- that is, his takedown defense -- is good, so that's something that I'll have to be aware of during the fight."
When coerced into lending a prediction and highlighting the key variables of the match up, Chan Sung Jung was respectfully reserved, as he always is, in his response.
"We'll have to see what happens once the fight starts, but I think I can control the pace of the fight. I plan to keep the pressure on him throughout. It's going to come down to the striking. Whoever has the edge in the striking will probably have the edge on the ground as well."
"As for a prediction," he concluded with a disarming smirk, "If I thought I was going to lose, I wouldn't be fighting. Ideally, I'd like to win by knockout."
Special thanks to Chan Sung Jung and his manager, Brian Rhee, for taking the time to do this interview during fight week.