People appreciate honesty, right? It would be nice if every fighter could be strong in every aspect of fighting, but it's just not the case. And honesty is refreshing in this age of seemingly endless hype. So rather than feed you the same, tired old "Che Mills is a monster" bit, assuring you straight-faced that Chan Sung Jung has a chance of knocking out Jose Aldo, I'll just be up-front with you: technically, the Korean Zombie isn't a great striker. Especially compared to Jose Aldo, he's miles behind. He just doesn't do a lot of things terribly well on the feet.
But that doesn't mean he isn't effective. For those unlucky souls who have yet to see the Zombie fight, trust me. He is most certainly effective. So today, rather than breaking down the specific techniques that Jung has used in the past, none of which are particularly superb, we're going to look instead at the strategies that this crowd-pleaser has used to get the fight to the ground, where he is a technician of rare creativity and skill.
This one shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Chan Sung Jung earned his nickname because of his relentless forward movement and ability to take tremendous punishment without stopping. Jung's style of pressure has changed with time, however, and it's now much better suited to his strengths.
It's not pretty, but Jung knows how to move his head. A single Mike Tyson fight will tell you exactly how important head movement is to the success of a forward-moving fighter, and Jung is no exception. The use of the forearms to cover up has become less and less common in the Zombie's fights, giving way to level changes and slips which allow Jung to counter with strikes and takedowns much more effectively.
1. KZ slips a left hand from Dustin Poirier and lands a long left hook.
2. His back to the cage, Poirier tries for another left, but this one has a lot more momentum behind it. Jung slips again and tries the same counter as before, but fails to find Poirier's chin with the punch.
3. Bringing his right foot forward, the Zombie wraps his right arm around Poirier's back and links his hands for the bodylock.
4. Jung drags Poirier to the ground.
The Korean Zombie used slips very well to press forward against Dustin Poirier and force the fight to take place either on the inside, or on the ground. As excellent as his application of the maneuver was, however, his actual technique was pretty abysmal. He still has a habit of taking his eyes off his opponent when moving his head. And it seems that Jung might have absorbed a little bit of Leonard Garcia's soul when he applied that twister, because his technique regresses rapidly with fatigue. In the third round against Poirier, the head movement was still there, but it had become less consistent. Jung began reacting to punches like so:
Hands extended, standing up straight, eyes off-target. The Korean Zombie's relatively newfound technical prowess seems to abandon him after two and a half rounds of hard fighting. It's difficult to say who, between Aldo and Jung, will be hurt more by their conditioning.
If we know one thing about Jose Aldo, it's that he likes to kick. And if you remember one thing about Chan Sung Jung, remember that he likes to catch kicks. Much of this contest will be decided by the speed and consistency of Aldo's kicks, as well as how well he can disguise them with his boxing.
Against less-renowned kickers, Jung has fared quite well, the notable exception being his fateful bout with George Roop.
1a. Poirier throws a lead kick to the leg and KZ changes his elevation to scoop up the kick as it lands.
2a. Jung bowls his opponent off of his feet.
1b. Poirier throws a switch kick, but Jung is more than ready for it. He reads the switch and catches the kick almost before it lands.
2b. This time, before getting the takedown, he lands an overhand right to Poirier's jaw.
Poirier isn't near Aldo's level when it comes to kicks, but he's not a bad kicker by any means. In two separate instances, the Zombie was able to get the fight to the ground before even thirty seconds in the round had expired, giving him plenty of time to work on the ground.
Of course, there is that fight with George Roop which, lest we forget, did take place just three years ago. In case your memory needs refreshing, here's the GIF of that finish. This was the first fight in which the Korean Zombie really fell prey to his own bad habits.
1. Roop lands a jab to the Zombie's mug.
2. Jung responds with a left hook thrown over Roop's follow-up right hand, but both punches miss.
3. Roop takes a small step with his right leg.
4. With a loud smack, Roop deals with the Zombie in the appropriate manner: a lethal shot to the brain.
The real error here is Jung's footwork. There's practically none of it. While Roop is moving his feet to set himself up for the left high kick, Jung attempts a winging left hook with both feet planted, and then just watches Roop as he makes the space necessary to separate him from consciousness. This is sheer laziness on the Zombie's part. Perhaps he began believing in his own indestructibility a little too much, or maybe he's just not designed for quick movements during exchanges. Whatever the reason, Jung did nothing to stop this left kick from landing.
This fight will be a bigger test for Jung than it will for Aldo. Whereas Aldo has face tough grapplers before, the Zombie has never faced a multi-dimensional fighter of Aldo's caliber. His recent improvements will be needed sorely in this matchup. Aldo is not invincible, and he's been punished before. Saturday we'll find out if the Korean Zombie is the man to take his belt away.