On Super Bowl weekend in Houston, “The Korean Zombie” will return to action after more than three years. But after a great initial UFC run, what kind of fighter will he be when he returns?
When fans last saw Chan Sung Jung, he came up short in an effort to wrest the UFC featherweight title from José Aldo in Brazil. While his valiant effort was commended by many, The Korean Zombie abruptly disappeared. It was as if one of the biggest fan favorites of the UFC’s modern era had gone back into the ground until he could wreak havoc on the division once again.
The answer: Jung left to serve in the military for two years in his native South Korea, as is mandatory for men to do in the country. While it may seem odd to stop what was clearly a peaking MMA career, Jung had no qualms about taking the time to serve his country.
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Of course, it’s hard to forget that leading up to his title bout, the Korean Zombie was quickly becoming one of the most multifaceted fighters in the featherweight division. He broke through the ranks with the first, and only, twister submission in UFC history. He followed it up with a stunning seven-second knockout over former title challenger Mark Hominick.
It was his bout against top contender Dustin Poirier that really cemented his place among the featherweight elite. Poirier, who still remains one of the most dangerous fighters in the lighter weight classes, was on a tear through the featherweight division. That night in Virginia, the Korean Zombie put on the best performance of his career to comprehensively crush “The Diamond” both on the feet and the ground.
Jung was still in his early twenties when he first debuted in the United States, several years later, he was seemingly reaching his full potential. He had improved his striking and was showcasing a potent submission game, all while keeping the same tenacity that made him a favorite when he had his memorable war with Leonard Garcia in the WEC.
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The question now, what kind of fighter will Jung be when he returns after being out of action for nearly four years? At 29 years old, he’s not old by any means. But time off can be a detrimental factor for any athlete and no one can be sure how sharp Jung will be after being away for so long. If he has missed a step, he could face a struggle as the new breed of featherweights is becoming faster and more explosive than before.
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On the other hand, if the Korean Zombie has improved his game then he could add another exciting element to arguably the most competitive division in the UFC. The shadow of Conor McGregor looms over 145. Aldo and Max Holloway have business to settle later this year and names like Frankie Edgar, Cub Swanson, and Yair Rodriguez are all vying to break into the title picture. Adding an exciting fighter like Jung to the mix only adds to the intrigue of the featherweight division.
Against Dennis Bermudez, Jung will have the height and reach advantage but faces an opponent who has a lot to gain in his first main event. Bermudez went on a seven fight win-streak before dropping back-to-back fights with Ricardo Lamas and Jeremy Stephens. Now on another two fight win-streak, Bermudez can put himself a win or two away from a title shot with a victory. A loss, however, would leave him at 2-3 in his last five fights and more than likely put him in the category of mid-level fighter for the foreseeable future.
Jung amassed a vast following prior to his departure from the UFC a win would go a long way in kickstarting a second UFC run. After being away for several years, we’ll find out Saturday if the Korean Zombie will rise again to terrorize the featherweight ranks.