Once cordial adversaries, bad blood has added a new level of anticipation to this Saturday’s high stakes title eliminator between Brian Ortega and The Korean Zombie at UFC Fight Island 6.
🇲🇽 @BrianTCity cemented contender status with a MONSTER right!
— UFC (@ufc) October 14, 2020
Before he suffered his first loss to Max Holloway, it was hard to imagine a scenario where Brian “T-City” Ortega would go nearly two years without competing. Leading up to his shot at the title, Ortega was arguably the most popular non-champion on the UFC roster and was getting the full promotional push from the company. Inside the cage, exciting finishes over Jason Knight, Cub Swanson, and Frankie Edgar had propelled him to the top of the division. Outside the cage, Ortega’s face was everywhere through his relentlessly played Modelo ad during UFC events and other endorsements. All of it led to one of the most anticipated featherweight title fights in recent years in 2018.
Despite coming off a disheartening loss, Ortega’s stock remained high and as did the interest in seeing him compete. Instead, changes to the group around him led to an extended absence. Ortega would take several months off to heal from injuries and per his own account make changes to his team and inner circle. He was previously scheduled to make his return last November, but a knee injury and the coronavirus pandemic has added another eleven months to his layoff.
Originally cordial, the two fighters now have a level of animosity after a well-publicized altercation earlier this year. At UFC 248 in March, both Ortega and Jung were in attendance as spectators. Per accounts, Jung stepped away to the bathroom and Ortega confronted Jung’s translator, Korean pop star Jay Park, and slapped him. Ortega had previously taken issue with Park whom he accused of speaking disrespectfully on behalf of Jung on social media following the cancellation of their bout. Following the assault, a police report was filed by Park but no further action was taken.
TKZ can make it rain down shots ⛈
🏝 Will he bring his storm to Fight Island on Saturday?
— UFC (@ufc) October 14, 2020
“The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung has struggled with injuries and staying active, but has nonetheless established himself as one of the biggest threats at 145 pounds. After returning from military service in 2017, Jung wasted no time in returning to form in dispatching Dennis Bermudez in a main event. Anticipation for his next fight was high, but a knee injury led to another year layoff. When he returned in 2018, he was a split-second away from a unanimous decision victory over late replacement Yair Rodriguez, but fell victim to the Knockout of the Year candidate as his opponent snatched victory from the jaws of defeat at the buzzer.
Though discouraging, Jung returned returned to form in 2019 with a pair of exciting performances to wash the taste of defeat away. That June, he blitzed Renato Moicano for a first round knockout and in December he brutally stopped former champion Frankie Edgar. Notably, Edgar took the place of Ortega who was forced to withdraw on short notice. Now at a time when there’s a new featherweight champion eager to build his legacy, the fight between Ortega and Jung has higher stakes than before as it figures to set up the next title challenger.
Stylistically, the technical striking of Jung will have to hold up to the physicality of Ortega. “T-City” is among the largest featherweights in the division and should look to walk down Jung behind crisp boxing. Ortega should also look for takedowns at close-range when possible as getting into top position will neutralize Jung’s best weapons on the feet. For Jung, the key will be to use his counter-striking to keep Ortega at bay until he can find openings to do damage. “The Korean Zombie” is deceptively powerful and a steady output while getting out of range of a counter attack should see him prevail if the fight goes the distance.
Earlier this summer, there was much speculation about what the next move for UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski would be. While a trilogy with former champion Max Holloway or the winner of a proposed fight between Yair Rodriguez and Zabit Magomedsharipov were discussed, injuries and timing have led to all signs pointing toward the winner of Ortega and Jung being next for the champion should they be healthy following their fight.