Frankie Edgar vs. Chan Sung Jung headlines UFC Busan this December 21, 2019 at the Sajik Arena in Busan, South Korea.
One sentence summary
David: Pain to Busan
Phil: Do vaccines work on the zombie virus?
Record: Frankie Edgar 23-7-1 Draw | Chan Sung Jung 15-5
Odds: Frankie Edgar +145 | Chan Sung Jung -165
History / Introduction to the fighters
David: It’s great to have the Korean Zombie back. There are few fighters who seem to exist on the wavelength of their character in the cage rather than the content of their social media. Jung is one of those fighters. For the most part, his game hasn’t changed much either. For a second, the KO loss to George Roop could have been a style-changing moment. He even said as much in the press. But rather than betray his instincts, he gave those bloodthirsty instincts a slight makeover; making sure his power and pressure remained his strengths, without ignoring the fact that he is, in fact, not an actual zombie. Ho, ho.
Phil: There was a fairly real chance that we weren’t going to get the same Zombie after he came back from military service: that the man who returned was going to be rusty or declined; that he would have been infected by one of the myriad ways which destroy fighters, like getting a conscience and realizing that you don’t like hurting people any more. Thankfully for us, that isn’t the case, and he’s still here delivering highlight finishes and back-and-forth brawls in fairly equal measure, just like he did before he left. It’s just happening at a much higher level of opponent, and it’s hard to imagine him struggling with an opponent like Leonard Garcia nowadays (although it’s worth offering some dap to Leonard, who pushed fighters like Holloway and Jung despite that being kind of unthinkable nowadays)
David: Edgar’s longevity is a low-key marvel in MMA. Even after nearly getting blasted by Gray Maynard of all people, he’s fought nothing but elite fighters for an entire decade. His 4th pro fight was against the completely forgotten and underrated Deividas Taurosevicius (a name I only recognize because Remigijus Morkevičius was always one of my favorite names, and clearly, Lithuanians have awesome names), was followed up by Tyson Griffin (then a top 10 lightweight), and Spencer Fisher soon afterward. Usually guys with this kind of history of pugilism end of being slaughterhouse meat. But Edgar has willed himself into contention year in, and year out. His style, despite being highly progressive for its time — back then wrestlers wrestled, strikers striked — always garnered criticism over the mere fact that he didn’t have much power. So I think some of this explains why he’s not as appreciated as he would be if he mixed in some murders here and there, but nonetheless, Edgarr’s still here, and still an elite fighter.
Phil: On a side note, Deividas Taurosevicius was someone we watched on the MMA Depressed-Us, because we were on a vain search for a bad Zuffa-era WEC fight. We failed, as his fight against LC Davis was actually a pretty good physical wrestling match. The conclusion: WEC had no bad fights. It’s still possible to remember Edgar as the surprising, undersized dark horse prospect at lightweight, who managed to leapfrog Gray Maynard due to being more exciting in what would become a career of slightly odd title shots. The high-motor, fight-everywhere battler from those days is still there, but housed in a more vintage vehicle.
What’s at stake?
David: Edgar is nothing if not consistent at getting title shots. 50% of his last 18 fights have been with a title on the line. He hasn’t always earned them (in the strictest sense), but he’s earned the value his name carries, and he’s certainly earned the respect.
Phil: How does this fight affect Edgar’s plan to drop to bantamweight? I’ll assume if he wins, he’ll drop that plan as featherweight is (somewhat) open at the moment and bantam is decidedly not.
Where do they want it?
David: Edgar’s style resembles duck feet: calm on top, but paddling endlessly underneath. He’s got an endless motor that pairs wonderfully with his takedown-combination attrition style. The basic elements are nothing too special. Though I’d argue that his boxing is still fairly high level (mainly for how it began rather than where it is). His choppy, stop-and-start boxing allows him to cover a lot of ground while scoring points. He’s frankly, one of the best at throwing into and away from the centerline, sticking with a rhythm that makes opponents feel swarmed rather than merely attacked. I think the biggest development in his game over the years is his ability to land power shots. He didn’t suddenly inject himself with Steve Rogers’ serum, but it’s something Mark Henry explicitly tried to coax out of him with better positioning, and mechanics. He gets more torque by planting his feet now. His combinations are more fury than flurry. And now he’s able to counter (as he did against Faber; not that he needed it), and stay in the pocket (which ended up folding Mendes in half). His limitations more or less remain the same. Edgar seems destined to be the small guy no matter the weight division. The biggest problem is that he moves around so much, his attacks become telegraphed. The level change works great the first time, but once we’re at feinted takedown attempt 546, you’re just putting yourself in danger.
Phil: Edgar reconfigured something more of a big man style down at featherweight: more pressure, more planting his feet, and a ground game which focused on pressure and control rather than scrambles and resets. All this is a bit ironic seeing as he’s probably still the smallest elite featherweight that we’ve seen in recent memory, and has been notably outsized by both lightweight (Stephens) and bantamweight (Aldo) transfers. One of the many valid criticisms of Edgar is that he is somewhat rote: his head movement is clearly well-coached, but metronomic in his consistency which has led to him getting clocked by uppercuts on more than one occasion. He has a lot of variety to his approach, but much of it relies on his first step-in. The jab is typically a throwaway in service of the left hook, and while he does a good job of hiding it, the right hand is almost always the end-game of any offensive striking approach that he builds, making his attack line a little easy to defuse.
David: KZ is a fighter tied more to the parts than the sum. Stand back and analyze his strengths and you’re not sure what you’re looking at. Is he a grapple-boxer? Wrestle-boxer? Power puncher? Technician? He’s not an archetype, and that’s his allure. To the extent that he’s easily defined, you might stick him in the ‘counterpuncher’ category. I guess. KZ can certainly counterpunch. We’ve seen it time and time again. Like against Hominick. But he can also make intelligent punch entries. Like he did against Bermudez, when he came in, anticipating the jab, slipping it, and making a hole in the man’s face with a well-time uppercut. KZ’s style is closer to a hitcher, tugging slowly at opponent defenses with stalking forward movement, and using whatever feints or jerks he baits out of them into casting violence. His KO of Moicano was a great example of KZ’s craft. He dipped his shoulders to the left, paused as if to throw a left, and BOOM: landing a casting punch even Fedor would be jealous of. You know how we talk about fighters with problems of identity? “He’s a brawler in a boxer’s body,” we might say. KZ is that phenomenon, harmonized.
Phil: While you can’t hate on a Frankie fight, I do feel like it’s a bit of a shame that the booked Ortega-Zombie fight never came to pass. While it’s not a mirror match, it feels like a fight between two men who have built out skillsets from a foundation of athleticism, grappling skill and pure fearlessness and durability. As far as standup, the Zombie used to be pretty much just a puncher, who would come forward behind hard shots and be ready to take them back in return. That approach died when he walked into a Roop headkick, and when he had that absurd war with Garcia. Instead the way that Zombie wagers on his chin nowadays is less direct: he is willing to draw shots, slip into an exchange and capitalize immediately. It can still go wrong, because he is not necessarily building on information so much as he is gambling that the opponent will respond in a particular way, but when it works, the fight is over. Other than that, I think Zombie’s game is actually well-made to capitalize on shorter phase-shifters. He uses the uppercut and knees fairly generously, and has a good snap-down and head control ground game.
Insight from past fights
David: KZ’s body of work is pretty limited. As such, this is pretty virgin territory for him. He’s faced a lot of wrestlers who could punch but not a lot of wrestlers who could box (no disrespect to Bermudez). Even someone like Poirier, who might be closer in template to Edgar, might not be a different species, but he’s definitely a different genus. So this fight will definitely come down to how KZ responds to Edgar’s constant movement. I can’t speak intelligently on how they’ll collide, boxing wise. But I don’t think KZ will be lost with the level changes. I don’t know where he got his jiu jitsu certificate, but he’s a dynamite grappler. Because of that, he’s smooth in dealing with those high/low feints. Against Yair, he was able to more or less corral Rodriguez’ eclectic offense. Of course, Egdar is much more polished. KZ’s defense, especially against the overhand right, is still spotty, but I do wonder just how much Edgar will want to transition before KZ figures his pattern out.
Phil: Two fights sang out to me: Dennis Bermudez phase-shifting his way into a fight-ending uppercut, and then Frankie doing something awfully similar vs Brian Ortega.
David: They may be getting up there in age, but they’re consummate professionals.
Phil: Nothing springs to mind. I would like Frankie to stop depressing me though. Supporting dictators? Anti-vax? Please no.
David: Everything about this fight favors Edgar (the boxing, the movement, the takedowns, the longevity, etc), except...except for those weird, icky transitions and level changes. I feel like part of what has limited KZ’s offense is opponents unwilling to consistently engage him. Edgar will do that, forcing Jung to open up - something that favors Jung, IMO. He’s got a strong arsenal of whoopass he can open up on a whim. Much of it will be defended, and avoided. But KZ doesn’t need to land a lot. He just needs to land some. For which he’ll have time. Korean Zombie by TKO, round 4.
Phil: I think there’s actually a decent chance that Edgar can hurt Jung early. That tendency to make big reads early may actually backfire for the Zombie, who does like to bet big. Frankie is willing and able to land big shots early to set up his takedowns and KZ does not prioritize defense much at all apart from as a way to land counterpunches. With that being said, I still think it’s a tough matchup for Frankie, who is less durable, smaller and dynamic, and will have to be avoiding big shots all night. Korean Zombie by TKO, round 2.