UFC Vegas 29 is a one-fight card. Not to say Mick Maynard and Sean Shelby dropped the ball; as usual, they actually did a great job. It’s that there are only so many fights that draw eyeballs and last weeks loaded PPV gobble up so many that it left landscape barren in the present. For instance, Marlon Vera rematching Davey Grant is a perfectly acceptable fight. Grant owns a win over Vera, but is happy to take the fight again given Vera has a higher profile whereas Vera wants to get that one back. It should be competitive. But who cares outside of those who tune in every single week?
Anyway, that one fight does feature The Korean Zombie facing a fellow bonus hog in Dan Ige. At least that one fight looks like it could be a FOTY contender.
Chan Sung Jung vs. Dan Ige, Featherweight
There is evidence Jung (I’d rather refer to him by his name than calling him The Korean Zombie) is in decline. While he is only 34 – old, but not necessarily ancient for featherweight standards – he has been fighting high level opposition for over a decade and has been through several brutal battles over the years. Most telling was his uninspired performance against Brian Ortega in his most recent performance. However, Jung has also claimed he was concussed in the second round by a spinning back-elbow and was fighting on autopilot from that point. Both perspectives have validity. Only with further evidence will we know the truth.
Prior to the Ortega fight, Jung’s striking was looking sharper and more disciplined than always before. Always a counter striker, Jung’s more measured approach was getting fast results as he made quick reads and landed his punches with exceeding quickness. If Ige gets in the cage with that version of Jung, he’s in trouble. Of course, Jung can be lured into his classic brawling ways if Ige can land some shots in a hurry as Jung often feels like he needs to get a strike back. As crazy as it sounds given Jung’s reputation, that’s going to be Ige’s best road to victory. After all, Jung has lost epic brawls to Leonard Garcia and Yair Rodriguez. Well… maybe he didn’t really lose to Garcia, but the Rodriguez loss is legit.
Of course, Ige has been working hard to become an effective counter striker himself, so there’s reason to believe he won’t pursue a brawl. If that’s the approach he does take, perhaps he can frustrate Jung by touching up Jung’s front leg with frequent kicks. Jung is typically heavy on it Ige is fast enough with his strikes that it may prove difficult for Jung to counter. Should Ige attack with his hands, he puts together short punching combinations and does a great job attacking the body.
The wild card is the mat. Ige’s wrestling has stalled out as he’s faced better competition and Jung hasn’t completed a takedown in nine years as he has grown more comfortable with his striking. Should the fight hit the mat, I’d expect Jung to have the advantage, his grappling the most underappreciated part of his arsenal. After all, he was the first person in UFC history to successfully complete a twister submission. Ige is fundamentally sound, but is that enough to combat or maybe submit Jung? I have my doubts.
It’s hard to believe Ige isn’t going to go balls to the wall for this contest. He specifically asked for Jung and people who call out for Jung typically do so with the expectation of engaging in an epic brawl for the ages. Ige’s recent win over Gavin Tucker showed he has enough power in his hands that he can put the opposition to sleep, so there’s no guarantee Jung would be the obvious winner as it would have appeared roughly a year ago. Still, I can’t favor him off one flat performance from Jung that may have a logical explanation when I’d generally favor Jung both in the striking and grappling. Plus, Jung typically finds a way to finish fights. A decision is doubtful. Jung via TKO of RD3
Aleksei Oleinik vs. Serghei Spivak, Heavyweight
It’s been fun to watch Oleinik develop into a known name amongst UFC fans after a long and storied career. The slick submission specialist didn’t headline a UFC card until after his 40th birthday, a time when most MMA fighters have long since seen their best days behind them. However, as Oleinik inches closer to his 44th birthday later this month, there are very strong signs the end of the line is exceedingly near.
Oleinik had a stretch of six years where he wasn’t finished. In the last four years, he’s been finished five times. Perhaps even more troubling has been Oleinik’s gas tank going from short to virtually nonexistent in the span of a just a few fights. Even when his stamina was questionable at best, Oleinik found a way to be somewhat active. That’s not the case anymore. Oleinik’s wrestling, never traditionally a technical strong suit, has looked worse, looking to pull guard a minute into his most recent contest when his trip takedown didn’t work. Yikes.
There is still some reason for hope. Oleinik is still surprisingly accurate with his overhand rights and Spivak’s chin isn’t exactly made of granite. Even more encouraging for Oleinik is Spivak’s own primary strength is his ground game. Even if Spivak ends up on top on the ground, Oleinik has secured several submissions from off his back, including the only two Ezekiel chokes in UFC history. Given Spivak has proven to possess a high fight IQ, those outcomes seem like longshots.
Spivak isn’t a fantastic athlete either, but he’s taller, knows how to use his length, and has a deep gas tank. Plus, there isn’t a worse athlete at heavyweight than Oleinik. Spivak’s striking is still a work in progress, but his jab has been coming along beautifully and is far more likely to land before Oleinik can land one of his looping hooks. The simplest way to put it: Spivak’s career is in an upward trajectory and Oleinik’s in in a rapid decline. While the biggest shock would be if this fight goes the distance, it’ll still be a hell of a shock if Oleinik pulls this out. Spivak via TKO of RD2
- When fans think of bantamweight KO artists, Davey Grant’s name usually isn’t a name that pops up on their radar. Yet, along with Cory Sandhagen and Adrian Yanez, he’s on a short list of bantamweight fighters who have officially secured KO wins in their last two appearances. Not too shabby for someone whose ground game has long been considered their strongest suit. To be fair, Grant’s grappling is still his most consistent aspect; the consistency due to Grant’s tendency to keep his hands low while trading fisticuffs. In fact, in each of those last two KO victories, Grant was knocked down before he was able to secure the stoppage. Given Marlon Vera’s killer instinct is amongst the best in the division, that’s problematic for the Brit. Notorious for his slow starts, Vera has done a better job of starting strong, landing a high volume of low kicks early before finding his range with his boxing. However, most fans still associate Vera with his lethal head kicks and tricky guard game. Both aspects are still there, but Vera has wised up and doesn’t spend nearly as much time on his back voluntarily. Vera doesn’t let his fists fly with the same abandon Grant does, leaving open a massive probability of Grant outworking the native of Ecuador. However, I don’t like the chances of Grant’s chin standing up to a clean shot from Vera and the chances are high that happens at some point. Vera via TKO of RD3
- At one point, it looked like Seung Woo Choi was going to be on the way out of the UFC in short order, and not for a lack of talent. A monstrous featherweight with serious KO power, the native of South Korea was thrown into the deep end of the pool for a newcomer and floundered. Given opponents more appropriate for a newcomer, Choi’s pressure game was able to shine through, forcing his opponents to throw at him in hopes of landing a powerful counter. It leads to bouts of inactivity if they refuse to take the bait, but Choi is willing to begin throwing first if he can’t get what he wants. However, he’s also lacking some quickness, which was his downfall in his early UFC contests. Will Julian Erosa be able to take advantage of that? That’s hard to say. Erosa is taller than Choi and does appear to have a slight advantage in speed, but he doesn’t have the physicality or power of Choi. Erosa makes up for that with a savvy that can only be gained by extreme experience and a willingness to take calculated risks. Plus, Erosa’s exceptional conditioning will likely have him pushing a pace Choi will have a hard time maintaining. Regardless, I’m leaning towards the younger Choi given Erosa is more tough than durable and his defense – like Choi’s – is lacking. Regardless, this contest should be a sleeper for FOTN. Choi via KO of RD2
- It’s been over two years since Bruno Silva was signed to the UFC, only now making his debut after serving a two-year suspension after a failed PED test prior to what was originally supposed to be his debut. The hope is he’ll prove worth the wait, but the reviews on him thus far are mixed. Though Silva has secured several finishes over notable names like Aleksander Shlemenko and Artem Frolov, it could also be said he was losing both of those contests before he was able to secure the stop. Much of that is due to Silva’s poor takedown defense and reckless striking, but he’s been able to endure thanks to his resilience, durability, and deep gas tank. Of course, it’s worth questioning if those factors were the advantages they were due to PED use. Regardless, Wellington Turman has questions to answer too. The 24-year old is coming off the first KO loss of his career, something that has derailed many careers. If his head is right, Turman is a skilled grappler with a heavy top game and a slick back take game. His striking has shown progress too, but the defense is still lacking. Turman’s ability to control his opposition in the clinch and on the mat in addition to Silva’s long layoff has me leaning towards the younger fighter, but there’s too many variables in this contest to know for sure how it will play out. Turman via decision
- It seems like there’s been a lot of fighters who Uncle Dana needs to “have the talk with” in the last little while, Donald Cerrone being the most prominent. I can’t help but fear Matt Brown could have that moment soon. Now 40-years old, Brown isn’t as durable as he once was, doesn’t have the stamina he once did, nor is he as fast as he once was. To his credit, Brown recognizes this and has made recent adjustments to transition from an all action, all the time fighter to one more focused on taking the fight to the mat and grinding away. It isn’t pretty, but it’s the best chance he has of picking up his win bonus check anymore… unless he can get his opponent out of the cage in a hurry. At one point, that felt like a safe bet with Dhiego Lima, his first stint in the UFC coming to an end after three losses that came within a half a round. As Lima matured, he’s been able to avoid those early finishes, in large part due to a development of both confidence and comfort in the cage. He also began playing to his strengths, staying on the outside to take advantage of his lanky frame and launching his killer low kicks at his opposition mixed in with an accurate jab. However, if Brown does focus on takedowns as he did against Carlos Condit, can Lima stay standing? While takedown defense was a major weakness of Lima’s early in his career, he’s done a lot to shore up that area, not to mention his ability to take a punch. Plus, I don’t trust Brown’s formerly vaunted durability anymore. Lima via TKO of RD2