Does “The Korean Zombie” have what it takes to spring the upset? | Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images
And then there was one. In a sport that has long been heavily represented by Brazilians, their once seemingly invincible champions continue to fall. Brazil’s hold on the heavyweight, light heavyweight and middleweight straps have all been broken. Now Jose Aldo is the last of the undisputed -- Renan Barao remains an interim champion -- Ultimate Fighting Championship titleholders from Brazil.
Aldo will defend his featherweight crown against Chan Sung Jung in the UFC 163 main event on Saturday at the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as for the first time in UFC history, a Korean will challenge for promotional gold. Let us look at how Aldo and “The Korean Zombie” match up on paper.
The Tale of Tape shows a negligible size advantage for Jung. He is sometimes listed as tall as 5-foot-9, but according to FightMetric and official UFC records, he is the same height as the champion. Either way, Jung will have a slight reach advantage. The only times Aldo has faced a larger opponent with a reach advantage was against Frankie Edgar and Kenny Florian. Aldo lost at least one round in those fights. If the fight stays standing, which is where Aldo has kept it for 83 percent of his cage time, this may become a factor. Otherwise, the two fighters are the same age and will use the same stance.
One difference worth noting is that Jung has not fought in more than a year, which is above the threshold for ring rust. He will need to be in great shape if he is going to challenge the champion for five rounds, so the nature of Jung’s layoff and training camp will be important.
With that, let us move on to their performance metrics, starting with striking.
While at a glance the two fighters seem fairly evenly matched in terms of their offensive metrics, this is a matchup where the context of prior opponents plays an important role in evaluation. While Jung has showed above average striking accuracy, two of his five fights in World Extreme Cagefighting and the UFC came against Leonard Garcia, who has been all too willing to stand and trade -- and to eat a lot of leather while doing so. If anything, Jung’s stats are likely a little inflated due to this fact. However, his accuracy may also reflect the precision striking that comes with being a tae kwon do black belt. That accuracy knocked out former contender Mark Hominick in just seven seconds, with only two standing strikes attempted. Regardless of whether or not Jung is truly comparable in to skill to Aldo, he remains dangerous.
Conversely, Aldo has a series of five-round fights against elite and elusive competition. Despite the consistently high level of opponents, Aldo has still performed very well statistically. His striking accuracy is above average, and he has scored an impressive seven knockdowns in his Zuffa career. Even more impressive is his defense, which is also where he differentiates most from his opponent in this matchup.
Aldo has proven difficult to hit, making his opponents miss their power head strike attempts nine times out of 10. Jung on the other hand is barely better than average in power striking defense and woefully below average against jabs. Both fighters have been good on defense in the clinch, but neither spends more than 10 percent of his cage minutes in that position. For context, that kind of elusiveness is on par with Lyoto Machida. While Jung may fare well standing in the pocket against most fighters, he might sustain more damage than he can deliver trying to do so against Aldo. In that case, the style of brawling that gave him “The Korean Zombie” nickname may work against him in Brazil.
Despite the small range disadvantage, Aldo should be the one landing more frequent and harder strikes. He is also twice as likely to use leg kicks, which he famously utilized to horrific effect against Urijah Faber at WEC 48. The five-round nature of this fight makes leg kicks an even greater weapon, thanks to added time for bruising and swelling to kick in. Although Jung has been in some barnburners before, he has not faced the knockdown power of a striker like Aldo. Cardio has cost Aldo some late rounds one the cards before, but his well-rounded attack and excellent defense make for a tough matchup for any featherweight.
What happens when these guys go to the ground?
To date, Jung’s performance on the ground has been dominant. Though he has only attempted six takedowns, he missed on just one. Once on the ground, he has been in control most of the time, using both strikes and submissions at will. Aldo has not spent much time on the ground, but his performance metrics are still above average, although they are not as high as Jung’s.
Qualitatively, Aldo has the better grappling credentials, thanks to a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and more experienced training camps. However, Jung has used submissions more effectively and more spectacularly of late. Two of Jung’s UFC appearances earned “Submission of the Night” honors: the twister submission on Garcia and his brabo choke finish of Dustin Poirier.
The real question will be whether either fighter can get this to the mat and take control. Both me have proven to be very difficult to take down, and neither has ever faced any submission attempts. With such good grappling defense and the low rate of offensive takedown attempts that they have shown, we might see these two choose to keep it standing.
The Final Word
The current betting line favors the champion Aldo at -700, with the comeback for the challenger Jung at +500. That means the market is giving Aldo an 88 percent chance of keeping his belt at UFC 163. With a lower likelihood of a one-punch knockout than exists in heavier divisions, chances are good that Aldo and Jung will stand and trade for at least a few rounds. Jung will have to be at his absolute best on offense and significantly improve his defense to steal early rounds, while his fitness will need to be up to par to win any championship rounds. Interestingly, it was partially Jung’s cardio that helped him finish Poirier in the fourth round of his last fight, while Aldo has dropped the final frame in several of his bouts that went to a decision. Could the gas tank be the difference or will it all be rendered moot thanks to the glaring home-field advantage Brazilian fighters have enjoyed in recent events hosted in Brazil.
What do you think? Is there any specific factor for Aldo that will ensure he keeps the local fans happy with another successful title defense? Is there any metric you think gives the scrappy “Zombie” a shot at giving Korea its first-ever UFC title in a huge upset?
Later in August, we will look at UFC 164, where we have the rare scenario of Benson Henderson defending his title against an opponent who already beat him once. That should be interesting.
Note: Raw data for the analysis was provided by, and in partnership with FightMetric. All analysis was performed by Reed Kuhn. Reed Kuhn, Fightnomics, FightMetric and Sherdog.com assume no responsibility for bets placed on fights, financial or otherwise.
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