Jose Aldo has rattled off 15 wins in a row. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Few who watched or attended will forget the last time Ultimate Fighting Championship featherweight titleholder Jose Aldo fought in his home country. Moments after the Nova Uniao product knocked out Chad Mendes with a first-round knee at UFC 142, he raced into the stands at the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro to celebrate his victory with a jubilant throng of his countrymen -- a scene of unbridled joy that ranks among the most memorable moments in the 26-year-old’s mixed martial arts career.
In the UFC 163 headliner on Saturday, Aldo faces Chan Sung Jung, a huge underdog returning from a year-plus layoff. Could “The Korean Zombie” be the next addition to Aldo’s personal highlight reel? It will require a superhuman effort from Jung if he is to ruin the post-fight party plans of thousands of Rio de Janeiro residents.
Aldo’s bid to follow in the footsteps of Anderson Silva and establish himself as Brazil’s next pound-for-pound great is not the show’s only attraction. In the co-headliner, Lyoto Machida looks to cement his place as the light heavyweight division’s No. 1 contender with a victory over talented wrestler Phil Davis. Whether such a win actually nets him a title shot is another story entirely.
Here is a closer look at UFC 163, with analysis and picks:
Sherdog Fantasy MMA: UFC 163 Free Fan Pick’Em
UFC Featherweight Championship
Jose Aldo (22-1, 4-0 UFC) vs. Chan Sung Jung (13-3, 3-0 UFC)
The Matchup: After defeating Frankie Edgar at UFC 156, Aldo was all set to square off with a converted lightweight for the second straight bout, but a knee injury to Anthony Pettis put an end to those plans. While the Brazilian will now defend his featherweight strap within the division, the selection of Jung as his opponent is not without controversy.
The popular “Korean Zombie” has not competed since May 2012, when he submitted Dustin Poirier at UFC on Fuel TV 3 in a bout that garnered its share of “Fight of the Year” accolades. In the meantime, featherweights Ricardo Lamas and Cub Swanson have continued to pad their resumes, arguably surpassing Jung in terms of No. 1 contender worthiness. However, Jung seems to resonate with fans as much as any 145-pounder, and his tendency to go for broke virtually guarantees that his showdown with Aldo will be great fun for as long as it lasts. Again, in today’s UFC, entertainment often trumps all, even when booking title bouts.
With that said, “The Korean Zombie” entering the Octagon against Aldo is a much improved version of the World Extreme Cagefighting iteration. Jung once went blow-for-blow with Leonard Garcia and was knocked out by a George Roop head kick, but he appears to have at least become more efficient in his aggression. After exacting his revenge on Garcia with the rarely used twister submission in his promotional debut, Jung shocked Mark Hominick with a seven-second knockout at UFC 140, taking advantage of the former 145-pound title challenger’s overconfidence with a well-placed straight right hand. The victory over Poirier demonstrated Jung’s offensive brilliance at its finest, as he showcased a versatile array of weapons -- elbows on the ground, knees and uppercuts standing and several submission attempts -- before finishing the bout with a brabo choke in the fourth round.
None of those opponents are nearly as formidable as Aldo, who has not lost a fight since 2005. If the Nova Uniao standout has a weakness, it is a tendency to tire in the championship rounds. However, even a faded Aldo can be dangerous, as he proved by launching a Superman punch off the cage in the final frame of his unanimous verdict over Edgar in February. The Brazilian’s combination of speed, power and technique are unmatched at 145 pounds, and his uncanny ability to control distance with strikes has allowed his underrated grappling to remain largely dormant over the years.
If Jung is to survive and drag Aldo into the fourth and fifth rounds, he will have to take a more measured approach. Moving forward relentlessly while bombing power punches will only serve to leave the 26-year-old South Korean open to counters from one of the best standup artists in the business. Instead of wild uppercuts, Jung should use straight punches to close distance and force tie-ups, from which he can attempt to trip Aldo to the canvas and force the champion to defend from his back.
The problem with such a game plan is that Aldo’s numbing leg kicks gradually tend to make any type of pressure and movement difficult; and if the champion was able to have someone as quick as Edgar reeling with his combination of jabs and leg kicks, then it seems likely that Jung will have serious issues combating his opponent’s speed. Additionally, Aldo’s takedowns, while underutilized, are explosive, and once on the floor, he is capable of advancing position with ease.
The Pick: As fun as Jung is to watch, he will simply not be able to match Aldo’s ability to throw punches and kicks in combination. In the past, Jung’s response to getting tagged has been to engage in a firefight. That will only hasten his demise here. Aldo wins by knockout or technical knockout in round two.
Next Fight » Lyoto Machida vs. Phil Davis