Featherweight Main Event
Brian Ortega is fighting for the first time in almost two years, his last fight being a brutal four-round affair which ended by doctor stoppage. Entering that fight, Ortega was 6-0 in the UFC with six finishes, three knockouts and three submissions. He’s looking to pick up where he left off and position himself for either a rematch with Holloway, or a shot at Alexander Volkanovski’s featherweight title. He’ll have a tough path there, facing off with The Korean Zombie Chan Sung Jung, who had a stellar year in 2019, going 2-0 with round-one knockouts of Frankie Edgar and Renato Moicano.
Neither of these guys has really been among the roster’s more active fighters, Ortega’s hiatuses have been well noted, and Zombie has only competed in the octagon eight times, despite having been on the roster since 2011. His losses have really only come to quality opponents, most recently Yair Rodriguez in 2018. Jung’s last loss was just two fights prior, but also five years prior, as Jung was inactive from 2013-2017 while serving in the Korean military.
If there’s anything we learned from Ortega’s last fight, and his only career loss, it’s that his chin should hold up. He took shot after shot, straight down the pipe from Max Holloway and still stood in and traded shots. The fight was eventually stopped by the doctor because Ortega’s eye was swollen shut, but he did have his moments in that fight, though they were few and far between. That last fight has left a sour taste of Ortega in oddsmakers and the betting public’s mouths, leading to his underdog listing at +160.
Ortega is a Renner Gracie black belt and arguably the most dangerous grappler in the featherweight division. He has a nasty guillotine that he has found both standing and from his back, and he prides himself on his signature triangle chokes. He has shown multiple times, as soon as he has his opponents neck, the fight is over. From his feet, Ortega likes to feel opponents out early. He transitions well between stances and has good footwork. He has strong hooks with both hands and tight jabs and straights. He often gets too focused on attacking the chin and doesn’t work the body often, but his changes of pace include kicks and knees to the midsection. He looks to pick up the pressure and pace as the fight gets into the end of the first and beginning of the second rounds.
Once Ortega starts applying pressure, he just keeps moving forward. He has an inhuman chin, and doesn’t mind taking a punch (or two, or three) to land his own strikes. He was able to get away with this bad tendency for a long time, but was exposed against Holloway. You simply cannot allow elite strikers like Max Holloway, or like The Korean Zombie, to find homes for their jabs and straights all night.
The Korean Zombie is best described as a brawler, but he’s more than that. He stands in the pocket, constantly moves forward, and loves to trade shots. He has a stiff jab that he uses to split guards, and he’s very smart about working both the chin and the body. He has one of the meanest uppercuts in the division, and some powerful short hooks. His own chin has held up over most of his career, but he has been knocked out with single clean shots twice. As a judo black belt and jiu jitsu brown belt, Zombie doesn’t shy away from clinch action or grappling. In the past he has used his grappling and clinch ties to slow opponents down, but he would be wise not to lock up with T-City.
The ground is where Ortega will have an advantage, but the standing fight will be all Zombie. Jung clearly has the speed advantage here and, a little less clearly, has the power advantage. I think both fighters are equally intelligent strikers, but Zombie’s execution and accuracy are just cleaner and better. Throughout his career, Ortega has managed to get through fights taking shots on his chin because they rarely landed cleanly. He relies on his head movement and his blocking, but against the only true striking technician he has faced, he was exposed and pieced up. That being said, Ortega has faced more powerful fighters than Jung, and has walked through the fire to find a win. We think this fight can go a number of ways, but most of them happen beyond the 2.5 rounds mark.
The story on this fight is that these guys are both finishers (which they are,) and that something’s gotta give. The thing is that they both have unbelievable chins, and have survived punches harder than each others for longer periods of time than 2.5 rounds. The only time Ortega has been finished, it was by doctor stoppage while he still clearly had his wits, going into the fifth round of a championship fight. Only once has Jung been finished inside of 2.5 rounds, it was in a three-round fight and it was ten years ago in the WEC. We think the only ways Ortega wins this fight is by submission, or by decision if he can roll for most of the fight, and he hasn’t started hunting for necks until late in the 2nd or early in the 3rd round of any of his previous fights. He’s going to try to stand and swing with The Zombie for a while before he goes for takedowns. If Zombie is going to find a knockout, it won’t be early. It takes a lot of work on Ortega’s chin to get him to fall down.