Korean Zombie a title contender… yet again

Fighting Dennis Bermudez was regarded by the MMA fan base as a seriously difficult challenge for Jung Chan-Sung after not having fought for three years, but it was one that he made look easy and a performance that restored his potential title credentials.

With the 145lb division looking to unify its championship belt sometime this year, we could be looking at the first challenger.

When it was announced that the Korean Zombie was leaving the UFC to complete his mandatory military service, I was devastated. I lived in Korea for 2 years, so as soon as I heard the news, I knew I wouldn’t see my favourite fighter for quite some time.

Unlike less threatened countries who ask their grown males to serve for a year, Korea asks for two – sometimes more. Korean men find great pride in serving their country due to the very real, tense and on-going stand-off between the north and the south.

Jung is no different. He was determined to do his duty without complaint. But for the fans that he’d garnered due to his aggressive and unique style, it was devastating news!

After all, who knows if a fighter will come back with the same passion after such a long lay-off, if they come back at all.

There were hidden benefits for The Zombie taking a break, though. He may have gotten The Zombie nickname for having a chin from the undead, but his body was feeling some wear and tear.

In a tough title fight against Jose Aldo, The Zombie’s shoulder was dislocated resulting in a TKO loss. His shoulder had been an on-going issue for him apparently, and the time off let it heal completely.

In fact, squaring up against Bermudez, Jung looked in amazing shape. His body was shredded. He’d lost none of the fire, and none of his technical ability on the mat or on the feet. Add to all this that he was coming in a new man physically, things potentially looked good.

Still though, Bermudez is known for a strong double leg takedown and a powerful overhand right. But The Zombie stuffed a couple of takedowns with ease, and didn’t appear interested in messing around with grappling on his return. He wanted to stand and bang, and Bermudez happily obliged.

The Zombie may have gotten his nickname for the punishment that he can take, but his technique shouldn’t be underrated. He knows how to use his reach advantage while at boxing range and also when clinching up against the cage.

He got in a little trouble early, perhaps due to ring rust, but once he’d shaken off the cobwebs, he was able to finish Bermudez with relative ease.

Aldo and Max Holloway will be looking on with interest, I’m sure. For the time being though, they’ll be preparing for each other.

The two 145lb champions will fight a unification bout in 2017 (barring injury), and the winner of that will be crowned the undisputed champion – now that Conor McGregor has made clear he will likely never return to 145lbs.

Of course if the fight is a classic, there could be a rematch, which is always a little annoying as it will feel like it’s holding up the division while challengers line up at the door.

But if there’s a clear winner, then I wouldn’t be surprised if we see the champion face either The Zombie, Frankie Edgar, or Yair Rodriguez. A meeting involving two of these three in the coming months could very well be for a shot at the belt.