In the main attraction of tonight's event, a pair of the most entertaining and offensive-minded featherweights will tear into each other with a future title shot at stake. 3 Chan Sung Jung vs. Dustin Poirier
There are quite a few similarities between "The Korean Zombie" (12-3) and Dustin "The Diamond" Poirier (12-1). Of their 12 career wins, they've finished 10 with just 2 decision wins: Jung boasts 7 submissions and 3 TKOs while Poirier is split evenly between TKOs and subs with 5 apiece. They both have an explosive, dual-pronged attack of vicious striking and clever submission grappling with nearly identical physical proportions at a lean 5'9" tall with incredible reach length (73" for Poirier, 72" for Jung).
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Many fighters could be categorized as "vicious strikers" yet very few discharge every combination like an earth-splitting cannonade or the thunderous grand finale of a fireworks show. When Jung and Poirier unreel their hands, it's a blinding salvo of skull-splitting punches, all of which are clearly designed for mass destruction.
Though Jung has 3 losses, the decisions defeats to Leonard Garcia and Masanori Kanehara are widely considered to be so controversial that the overused "R-word" -- robbery -- is almost befitting. Poirier was manhandled by Team Alpha Male bully Danny Castillo in a WEC lightweight match, which propagated Poirier's drop to featherweight and subsequent domination.
Jung's vicious knockout loss to George Roop is a significant and pronounced finish with no parallels to Poirier, however, I don't think it's a stretch to say that Jung's past opposition (Garcia x2, Roop and Hominick, Kanehara and Michihiro Omigawa) is clearly a level above that of Poirier's (Zachary Micklewright, Josh Grispi, Jason Young, Pablo Garza, Max Holloway).
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Jung doesn't hang around in tie-ups too often. He's quite adequate in the clinch with knees and dirty boxing, but generally prefers to disengage and uncork a whirlwind of leather. We've seen Poirier more often and more active in the clinch, though it was against opponents who were at a disadvantage on the mat. Jung will be more than game to tangle in a grappling match, so I'm not sure if this aspect will be crucial, as both are most comfortable chucking punches in open space or fully engaged in a grappling match. Regardless, Poirier has been more inclined to clinch and effective in the position.
Advantage: Poirier (slight)
Their differences in past competition make this a subjective category. Obviously, they're both wildly talented in submission grappling. Poirier might have a small edge in wrestling and takedowns, but Jung has been much more of a force with his submission acumen, both in and before the UFC, and has enforced his submission wizardry more often, more effectively and against a higher level of opposition.
No offense to Max Holloway, who only had 4 pro-fights and was making his UFC debut, or Pablo Garza, who is equally talented and inconsistent. Jung was a terror on the mat before his appearance in the Sengoku tournament, has been the same in the few grappling instances we've seen of him in the WEC-UFC and has the superior submission rate to prove it.
Well, this is what it all seems to come down to, doesn't it? Jung is known for hurling wide loopers and the unrefined "Zombie style" that Roop capitalized on. Poirier fires off very tight sequences of lefts and rights and keeps his elbows tight to his ribs. He typically waits for the ideal time and position before squeezing off anywhere from 2 to 20 blistering punches while wading straight forward. He's not much of an angle-guy but his furious stream of punches and high-pressure mentality have been enough to keep opponents quite occupied.
Jung has made a distinct change to his unpolished brawling and his performance against Hominick is the perfect example. The understandable specs on that match up were that Hominick's technical precision would carve through Jung, yet it was Hominick who was dusted by the more accurate and technical fundamentals.
While miniscule details like Poirier's reach and Jung's past opposition may be minor influences, it's too hard not to call this dead even. Poirier would appear to have better defense, particularly with head movement, yet the best striker he's encountered is Young, who is extremely technical but light on TKOs (3 total). Jung has a much wider and more unpredictable arsenal, such as his spinning back-fists and leaping knees, but Poirier's no-frills boxing is highly effective.
I don't see any distinct and indisputable cases for either fighter. There are arguments for Poirier's striking because of Jung's loss to Roop, yet Poirier isn't what I'd call a power-puncher; there are arguments for Jung having the superior ground game, but he rarely looks to exploit it and is quite content to trade haymakers. I think the way Jung has tightened up his striking and his under-rated submission wizardry will pull him through.
My Prediction: Chan Sung Jung by submission.