George Roop file photo: Sherdog.com
George Roop had a feeling he was onto something as he sat in his corner between rounds of his featherweight contest with “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung at WEC 51.
“Going in, I wanted to score takedowns, work some ground-and-pound,” said Roop. “But after round one, I felt that everything was going so well with establishing my jab and my striking, keeping him off balance, I figured I'd just stick with what's working.”
Roop’s rangy build and constant motion had served him well in the opening stanza. His snapping left hand had begun to redden the face of the South Korean just moments into the match, while kicks to the body and head staggered Jung. When Jung tried to initiate clinch work, Roop kept his back off the fence and circled out, keeping his foe perpetually lurching forward.
Unlike some of Jung’s previous opponents, the Shawn Tompkins-trained fighter had no intentions of being baited into a slugfest.
“I watched a lot of his fights from overseas, and he's still the same fighter,” notes Roop. “I felt like he was a big-time brawler, and I'm more of a precision striker.”
Roop continued to pump his left jab as the second round began, finding an easy target in Jung, whose flat-footed stance kept his head stock-still and open to punishment. The American also started slipping Jung’s haymakers with more ease; at one point, the Korean charged forward with an eight-punch combination, none of which landed cleanly.
Flicking out another jab, Roop saw Jung bend to the left and lower his guard. The 6’1” fighter took the opportunity to fire off a right head kick from close range, laying his shin square across Jung’s face. True to his name, the “Zombie” absorbed the punishment and continued charging forward.
Then, 90 seconds into the frame, it happened.
With Jung pressing in from the center of the cage, Roop lobbed a long one-two combo which caused Jung to lean off to his right. No sooner had Roop retracted his second punch than his left leg was on the move. A fraction of a second later, his foot smashed into Jung’s jaw, sending Jung crumpling to the canvas in a manner so grotesque that his forehead collided with his own left knee.
It was a three-piece utilized before by Shawn Tompkins fighters -- especially Chris Horodecki in his IFL run -- but never so devastatingly. However, Roop says the one-two-head kick didn’t come from his trainer, but his own instincts.
“I just put that together,” said the “Ultimate Fighter” alum. “I just try to go with the flow of the fight, get into the rhythm and see what comes. Whatever comes, whatever I see, that's what I'll go with.”
For the man selected last on TUF 8 and pegged by bookmakers as a major underdog against Jung, knocking out a fighter with one of MMA’s most vaunted chins comes as sweet validation, but no great surprise to Roop himself.
“I wasn't intimidated by his nickname. You know, he's a tough opponent, he comes forward a lot, but I wasn't worried by his reputation. I asked for this fight. I really felt it was a great match-up for me, stylistically.”
With his business handled, Roop now heads home to Arizona, where a more pleasant -- if no less nerve-wracking -- challenge awaits: raising his two-week-old son, Payden Dominick Roop. Fortunately, he'll have an extra $10,000 to ease matters, courtesy of his well-deserved “Knockout of the Night” bonus.