For the second time in a row, The Korean Zombie has come into a fight as the underdog and not only pulled off the win, but done so in spectacular fashion. Last time, it was former UFC Featherweight title challenger Mark Hominick on the receiving end of a 7 second knockout; this time, it was Dustin Poirier being choked out in the main event of UFC on Fuel TV 3. He's proven himself as true contender, a great underdog story and managed to bring the fans into his fights like few others at 145. And now?
The Korean Zombie is the #1 contender to the UFC Featherweight title.
Post-fight, Dana White was at first a bit tentative, telling Ariel Helwani that Jung "may" get the next shot. But at the post-fight press conference, White confirmed that Jung would indeed be the next title challenger. He's moved past Hatsu Hioki, and claimed his spot as #1.
And that is undoubtedly a good thing. Brent Brookhouse already laid out the positives last night - primarily, that Jung is a name fans know and respond to. Sure Hioki may have the better resume (though after the Hominick and Poirier wins - does he?), but fans don't know him. And that's what this young division needs right now - a challenger fans know.
Champion Jose Aldo is currently getting ready for his 4th UFC title challenger. Of those 4, only Kenny Florian was a name opponent to most fans. The rest - Hominick, Mendes, Koch - were simply "the challenger", men in there against Aldo, but not their own individual stories. Jung will change that and make this a fight where both combatants matter.
Despite this, there are some arguments against Jung. He's outclassed. He was KO'd be George Roop not long ago. He can't win. Maybe that's all true. But it's also the exact same thing I said before he faced Hominick, the exact same thing I said before he faced Poirier. And, I admit, I was wrong. Twice.
When Jung does get his shot, particularly if that shot comes against Jose Aldo, I'll probably pick Aldo. I think he's too good with his kicks, too good on the ground, too good of an all-around fighter for the Zombie. But I keep underestimating Jung. Am I underestimating him once again? Can he be the man to dethrone pound for pound great Aldo? I won't be betting on him, but in my heart, I'll be rooting for him to prove me wrong yet again. And that is what a world title fight is all about.