The question heading into UFC Vegas 29 was whether Dan Ige could fight off the Zombie invasion. Well, not exactly. But fan-favorite featherweight The Korean Zombie was the man Dan Ige was tasked with getting past, in a fight that screamed fireworks.
Zombie, years removed from his title challenge against Jose Aldo, was looking to make one last run at the belt — making a win over Ige crucial, as he had dropped a potential title eliminator last year against Brian Ortega.
Ige, for his part, had bounced back from a loss last year to Calvin Kattar by making short work of Gavin Tucker back in March.
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The Korean Zombie is always must-see TV, and Ige had quickly graduated from Contender Series winner to legitimate featherweight threat. That left their main event scrap with a lot of promise. When the action got underway, it was Ige holding center initially, at least until Zombie went on the offensive. Ige then moved to the outside, using his jab and throwing a few shots to the body in for good measure. Zombie fired a low kick, and closed the distance, but Ige easily fought out of the clinch.
Zombie’s next level change, however, would result in a takedown landed. The South Korean moved to half guard, but trying to pass to mount, instead found himself back in guard. Ige then looked for an arm-bar, and briefly pushed Zombie off of him. Zombie got back on top, but lost position in a scramble that led to the pair moving back to their feet.
Zombie clipped Ige almost immediately in the second round, dropping him. Ige was right back to his feet, but the message had been sent. The early minutes of the second saw a lot of success from Zombie, who seemed to have found his range. As a result, he was putting a little more into his punches.
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Ige, having recovered from the knockdown, opted to shoot for a takedown after trading with Zombie failed to produce the desired result. He couldn’t complete the attempt, but threw a few knees to the thigh of Zombie. Back at range, Ige sent Zombie reeling with a hard calf kick. An accidental headbutt opened up a cut on Zombie, something that could play a factor later in the fight. They’d go to the ground again, but it was Zombie taking the back and securing a body triangle. He’d finish the round there.
Round three opened with a Zombie leg kick, with Ige answering with his hands. Zombie then dropped for a takedown; the Hawaiian was soon flat on his back. Once again, Zombie took the back; once again, he locked in a body triangle. Ige then had to content with a rear-naked choke, fighting the hands. There was still over two minutes remaining in the third round, however. Ige spent the remainder of the round just trying to improve his position and turn out of the body triangle, with little success.
Entering round four, the best Dan Ige could have hoped for was maybe having won the opening round on the scorecards. More likely was a 30-27 Zombie score, meaning Ige would need to find a way to win in the final two stanzas.
Through the first two minutes of round four, Ige at least stayed standing, and even managed to back Zombie up to the fence. But when Zombie went on the attack, punctuating a combination with a kick, he was having more success. Landing more. Ige’s next attack was countered, and his next. When Ige fanned, Zombie connected. Ige’s movement and angles made the round more competitive, but he wound up getting overly aggressive towards the end of the frame — which led to a body kick being caught, and Ige being planted on his back.
By the time round five rolled around on Saturday, there was zero question that Dan Ige needed a finish. Not impossible — just ask Yair Rodriguez. But Zombie had not shown any cracks in the armour through four rounds. Ige, however, began to target the body in the fifth, which seemed to hurt Zombie. Zombie tried to take the back, but was too high. Ige was able to fight off the next takedown attempt. Ige then drove Zombie into the fence, locking in a body lock. Zombie turned, eventually separating. Ige’s corner was hollering at their fighter to get going, but it was Zombie landing a knee then taking the back. With a body triangle once again locked in, the end result felt inevitable. The only real question was, submission or decision?
Official Result: The Korean Zombie def. Dan Ige by unanimous decision (48-47, 49-46, 49-46)