It has been nearly three and a half years since Chan Sung Jung last stepped into the octagon. Better known by his moniker “The Korean Zombie“, Jung has a reputation for putting on exciting fights. Returning from his mandatory stint in the south Korean military, Jung is returning to a very different featherweight division than the one he left behind in 2013. Belts have switched hands, champions have been promoted and stripped, and contenders have risen and fallen. His dance partner for his return is Dennis Bermudez. Bermudez may not have the rabid following of the Zombie, he does have a habit of putting on exciting fights.
This is a great fight to welcome The Zombie back to the Octagon. Both men are exciting and love to compete in all areas of MMA, but they have very different approaches. While one is a natural finisher with great instincts, the other is a product of good coaching and physical gifts. This fight promises to be exciting no matter who wins, and it will vault the winner back into the top of the featherweight division.
The Zombie Lives: Dennis Bermudez Versus Chan Sung Jung
Chan Sung Jung: The Killers Mentality
A fighters nickname is not always indicative of their characteristics as a fighter. Georges “Rush” St Pierre was calm and collected. Thiago “Pitbull” Alves was more of a measured out-fighter than a bullish pressure fighter. Miesha Tate never looked much like a cupcake.
For Chan Sung Jung however, “The Korean Zombie” is a moniker which perfectly encapsulates his personality. Well known for his iron chin, Jung has gained his following in large part from treating punches to the face like an invitation to join the party. In his early career Jung would simply march forward with his hands down, looking to land shots while seemingly oblivious to his opponents offence.
Jung as a fighter is absolutely fearless. In any aspect of the fight, Jung is always looking for a way to finish. His main goal is always to finish, rather than thinking in a long term strategic sense. This does not mean that he is unskilled however. In fact, over the course of his career, Jung has picked up a few skills that help him thrive amid the chaos he creates.
Counter Punching On The Lead
One thing that has been evident from the start is that Jung is incredibly comfortable in the pocket. He is at home during exchanges and he thrives on his opponents aggression. It should come as no surprise then that Jung has been developing into quite the competent counter striker.
While he was happy to eat shots to give shots in his younger days, Jung has seemed to realize that avoiding the shots while coming forward can leave the same openings without compromising his balance and consciousness. As such he will often press forward but let his opponent swing first, looking to draw a shot with his presence before committing to striking.
Another interesting habit of Jung’s is his ability to use the cage to his advantage. If he cannot force his opponent to lash out at him, he will stalk forward until their back hits the fence, then explode on them.
This positional awareness also shows itself in Jung’s shots. He uses flying knees and uppercuts frequently, but not before spending a few minutes winging hooks. These two types of techniques require very different blocking positions. By alternating between these and smattering in his underrated jabs and low kicks, Jung creates openings to land his shots, even if he isn’t particularly subtle about doing it.
Scramble Like You Mean It
While the Zombie has gained his fans as a striker, his biggest wins have come via his grappling. Just like on the feet, Jung has fantastic instincts for weaknesses while scrambling. If his opponents give him an inch, he will take a mile.
What you will notice about the above gif is that what makes it the reversal possible is that Poirer is running into the takedown. His momentum carries him forward and before he can settle into his top position, Jung uses the momentum to swing him over his head. As soon as he feels Poirer shooting, Jung is already wrapping his arms around his waist and looking to throw him over the top. It is a fantastic scramble by Jung, but it is made possible by Poirer’s mistakes.
Without his scrambling, Jung is still a potent grappler. He is quick to threaten submissions, and will chain armbars and triangles from the guard very quickly. His grappling is much like his striking. He doesn’t give much thought to his defense.
His will give up top position to threaten an armbar, and he will stay in guard if he thinks he can snag a submission. While he is undoubtedly dangerous on the mats, he does not try to win rounds. He is constantly looking to finish, and as such there is a threat of him getting outworked if he cannot find it. Such an outcome would not be an unusual one for his next opponent, Dennis Bermudez.
Dennis Bermudez: A Lesson In Discipline
For a long time, Dennis Bermudez has been flying a little under the radar. After finishing second on TUF 14 to Diego Brandao, Bermudez went on a 7 fight win streak. This included wins over Clay Guida and current interim featherweight champion Max Holloway. What has made him so successful in his career so far is the fact that Bermudez is a well put together fighter. He is a good striker, a good grappler, and a good clinch fighter. He is well conditioned, he is strong for the division, and he keeps a good pace. There are a lot of things to admire about the way Bermudez goes about his game, but there are holes too.
A Conduit For Coaching
Bermudez as a striker is a result of his coaching. He does a lot of things well that you would want a striker to do. He can move his head on the outside, he leads behind a jab, and he will often finish his combinations with a hard low kick.
From the outset of a fight, Bermudez will press forward and look to land shots. He can counter reasonably well and when he focuses on his head movement he can be very difficult to hit.
Bermudez has all the key notes of a disciplined striker. What he is lacking is intent. He is constantly pressing forward, but he doesn’t try to put his opponent on the fence. He mixes up his strikes, but he doesn’t play with his opponents expectations. While his head movement on the outside is commendable, he will often leave his head straight up after he actually steps in to throw. No matter what is going on in the fight around him, Bermudez will fight the same way. That can be both a blessing and a curse.
This is not to say that his striking is perfect. For someone who can look so sharp in combination, Bermudez has a wild right hand. When throwing it he will often force his rear leg off the ground, turning it into an almost unintentional superman punch.
A Road Map To The Mat
Bermudez is a forward momentum fighter. Much like the Zombie, he does his best work when his opponent is backed up against the fence. Also like the Zombie, his footwork does not focus on getting opponents there. He doesn’t cut the cage, rather he presses forward and collapses ranges. If his opponent retreats from his strikes, he will tag them with a low kick as they leave range and follow them to the fence. If they stand and trade, he will drive into a clinch. From there he will look for knees, trips, or even break away and continue to strike.
Most of the time when Bermudez presses into a clinch, he will look to take the fight to the mat. While he is not a great ground and pounder or guard passer, his takedowns are spectacularly effective.
This is the key to Bermudez’ game. He will push from striking range, to the clinch, to the mat, and then start all over again. His gameplan does not involve specifics with regards to how he does that. More so he has been given the tools to do this relatively safely against almost anyone, and will do so until the fight ends.
A Penchant For Necks
While it may not be apparent from his record, Bermudez loves to hang off his opponents neck. When he is on the mat he will usually fish for a guillotine choke, and will sink a rear naked in if the situation presents itself. However it is on the feet that his love of head contact is most pronounced. It is surprising when watching his fights how often Bermudez ends up in the snap down position, hanging off his opponents neck. From this position he will look to land knees or lock up a guillotine, sometimes both.
He rarely delivers devastating ground and pound, even from full mount, but Bermudez is constantly threatening his opponents neck, even in transition on the feet.
At his core Bermudez is a fighter who has been given a lot of tools and told to work with them. He has been well coached in certain technical areas, and he follows his gameplan to a tee. However he sometimes has mental lapses, and his overall strategy seems to be a little shallow. He has the skills to trouble anyone in the division, but he does not alter his game for any opponent until they force him too.
This is a fantastic fight to greet Jung back to the octagon after a long layoff, but that by no means suggests that it is an easy fight. In fact, Bermudez’ combinations, pace and strong takedowns could make it a nightmare matchup for The Zombie. However, Bermudez is vulnerable in the prolonged engagements that Jung likes to create, and the fact that both guys tend to be offensive without being overly strategic makes this a fight that is guaranteed to produce a great fight, win or lose.
Even if Jung returned in prime form, he would still have a hard time dealing with the relentless nature of Bermudez’ grappling, but he will also be given many opportunities to find a finish during scrambles and exchanges. However if his reactions and timing have suffered in his near four year absence, Bermudez stands to make a statement over the course of his first five round fight.
The winner of this fight will find themselves creeping ever closer to the top of a division that has yet to settle down. A title shot is off the cards for anyone until Max Holloway and Jose Aldo settle this interim title nonsense, so in the meantime there is nothing to do but try and make sure the fans don’t forget your name.