UFC 273: Volkanovski Looks to Reign Supreme Against the Korean Zombie

Alexander Volkanovski UFC
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - JULY 12: Alexander Volkanovski of Australia celebrates after his split-decision victory over Max Holloway in their UFC featherweight championship fight during the UFC 251 event at Flash Forum on UFC Fight Island on July 12, 2020 on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

At UFC 273, the Korean Zombie will look to score a career-defining upset while champion Alexander Volkanovski seeks to remain in the driver’s seat as he awaits a third match with a familiar foe.

The distance between Alexander Volkanovski and the rest of the field (most of it anyway) is widening.  Approaching his third year as UFC champion, “The Great” is in the best form of his career and the only question that seems to remain is whether he can remain at this level until eventually breaking the threshold of 13 consecutive UFC victories.  For reference, his current run in the Octagon stands at 10 (20 overall when including his fights prior to the UFC) with Max Holloway (twice,) Jose Aldo, Brian Ortega, and Chad Mendes adorning his resume.

Similar to the last decade in the world of tennis, Volkanovski’s only struggle for a breakthrough promotion-wise is that he competes in the same era as another brilliant all-time great.  Just as Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic constantly chase each other and challenge the popularity of Roger Federer, Volkanovski competes to separate himself from his rival Holloway who continues to fight at the championship level.  It is a unique case that has not been seen before where a champion has back-to-back victories over the same person, no matter how close or competitive the bouts were, and the focus remains on an eventual rematch in the near future.

The road to his second UFC title shot has been a long one for Chan Sung Jung.  Affectionately known as “The Korean Zombie,” Jung has experienced not only his share of highs and lows but also starts and stops across a 12 career under the Zuffa banner.  After announcing himself to the world with an all-time classic against Leonard Garcia in 2010, the then 23 year-old Zombie embarked on a run that saw him face elite talent in Aldo, Dustin Poirier, Frankie Edgar, Yair Rodriguez, and Brian Ortega.  Along the way, his explosiveness, durability, and later his craftiness made him one of the UFC’s most well-received contenders.

For as exciting as he is, his career has also seen setbacks and pauses that kept him from fully blossoming as a star.  In 2013, fresh off a title shot and in arguably best stretch of his career, he took several years off to complete mandatory military service in his native South Korea.  His return in 2017 was not only dotted with wins and losses, but also injuries that forced another year layoff as well as two other pauses in his career that lasted more than six months.  In his absence, the likes of Conor McGregor, Holloway, Volkanovski, and Ortega all rose to prominence in the featherweight title picture.  Now in a title shot due to perfect timing and his body of work, he looks to complete his resume with that elusive UFC title.

Zombie will need to be active with an aggressive attack in order to neutralize the offense of Volkanovski.  The champion does his best work when he is pushing forward and Jung should look to use a multi-faceted attack on the feet when he does settle down on his strikes.  As he looks to use lateral movement, “The Great” will be looking to walk him down and force the fight into close quarters where he can deliver explosive strikes.  While Jung has shown impressive stopping power in the past, it’s expected that he will struggle fighting off his heels if Volkanovski can effectively push forward.

An upset for The Korean Zombie would open any manner of scenarios with an immediate rematch with Volkanovski being the most likely or a new challenges in the form of Holloway or Arnold Allen.  A victory for Volkanovski is expected to once again set up a third fight with Holloway as the two were previously in talks to fight in March.