The ultimate fighting preview: UFC expert Dan Hardy analyzed Brian Ortega and Korean Zombie's upcoming war

Brian Ortega and Korean Zombie.Photo by Alan Dawson / Insider
  • Featherweight rivals Brian Ortega and Chan Sung Jung, also known as Korean Zombie, top the fourth of the UFC's five Fight Island events in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
  • There is no love lost in this rivalry as its history contains an open-palm slap, an accusation of cowardice, and a pledge that the battle will be so bloody both athletes will end up at the local hospital.
  • Mixed martial arts expert Dan Hardy, a UFC commentator and former welterweight title challenger, analyzed the 145-pound fight for Insider.
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FIGHT ISLAND — The headlining match in the fourth of the UFC's five events at the ongoing Fight Island festival in Abu Dhabi pits the "clean knockout power" of cult hero Korean Zombie against Brian Ortega's ground-game skillset.

The two athletes throw down in a featherweight fight, which could determine an immediate shot at Alexander Volkanovski's UFC championship in the 145-pound weight class.

There is no love lost in the rivalry, one which has seen Ortega allegedly slap Korean Zombie's translator with his open-palm at a fan-attended UFC event earlier in the year.
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Korean Zombie, whose real name is Chan Sung Jung, accused Ortega of being a coward for picking on his translator and friend — the rapper and musician Jay Park — rather than him.

And while Ortega tried to play down the animosity, he still told reporters during the media day this week that both of them will finish the night in a local hospital.

Insider spoke to the mixed martial arts expert Dan Hardy, a former UFC welterweight title challenger, to get the UFC commentator's insights ahead of Saturday's match-up.
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He told us Korean Zombie, 33, had built great momentum before he had to take a hiatus from the sport because he was conscripted to the Korean army.

Before his national service, Korean Zombie's last UFC bout was a fourth-round knockout loss to Jose Aldo in 2013. He did not return until 2017, when he beat Dennis Bermudez by first-round knockout.The Ortega bout will be his first of the pandemic era.
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"What we saw with Korean Zombie in his first stint in the UFC was that he ran through a bunch of guys really quickly, got his opportunity against Aldo, and disappeared for a while.

"Obviously, he's going to know about the frustrations of being out of competition and watching the sport and the division continue to grow without him being a part of it."

The fighter's translator hinted at an evolved Korean Zombie in recent years — a 2.0 fighter.
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Hardy said the biggest difference between a pre-conscription Jung and a post-conscription one is not an evolved skillset per se but rather a more mature person experienced at decision-making in the midst of battle.

"More than anything, it's maturity," Hardy said. "The first Korean Zombie we saw in the UFC, he came in after that amazing WEC war with Leonard Garcia, and that kind of set the stage for what we expect from him.

"He made his UFC debut in a rematch against Garcia and was able to finish him with a twister, which is a very complex submission.
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"It's one of those submissions that you can't keep a secret until you've landed it on your opponent. They know what you're doing while you're setting it up — that shows how good his ground game is."

Korean Zombie scored the first twister submission in UFC history

"But we've also seen his knockout power, such as his first-round knockout over Mark Hominick before he got his title shot.

"The main difference now is his maturity. He's grown up. He's watching his place in the sport and realizes what he needs to do to be at the top. He's a contender, no doubt about it.
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"He's got skills wherever [the fight] goes and it's all about decision-making when you get to the top-5. And the guys who make the best decisions are usually the ones who are the most successful.

"He has a complete disregard for his own face most of the time. He doesn't worry about getting hit but what that does is allow him to stay in the pocket without concern for his own safety, allowing him to read his opponents better, worry about his offense instead of theirs."The best example of that is the [Renato] Moicano fight. If you watch that fight in slow-motion, he never takes his eyes off Moicano's chin.
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"Even when the punches are coming in, he slips off the centerline, comes straight over the top with a laser-focused right hand, and pretty much knocks him out the cold.

"The biggest difference [between Korean Zombie and KZ 2.0] is his maturity through his UFC career."

Ortega comes into the No.1 contender fight looking to rebound following defeat

Ortega is looking to bounce-back following defeat to Max Holloway.Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images
Ortega built a hot prospect status when he scored four consecutive third-round finishes from 2015 to 2017, but then suffered a debut loss in his career when Max Holloway obliterated him in 2018. He hasn't competed since.
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"Ortega is coming off his first loss and that will be a big wake-up call for him," Hardy said.

"I'm always excited to see fighters return after their first loss because they make such strides in their game. Brian Ortega has brought in some new coaches and [the way he's preparing] we're going to get a much better version of Brian Ortega."

The Californian black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu is without one of his trainers and close friends Rener Gracie, who tested positive for the coronavirus in the US and prevented from traveling with the team to Abu Dhabi.
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Ortega said it is more of a loss because Gracie is his "homie," and that he needs little help with jiu-jitsu — Gracie's specialty — considering his prowess on the ground.

Hardy agreed.

"The thing with Brian Ortega is coming into his title fight with Max Holloway. We knew what kind of fighter he was. We know what skills he brings to the table."
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Hardy noted that Ortega has started slow in some fights but can change gears later when he is perhaps trailing on the scorecards and scoring a stoppage victory.

"With those third-round finishes, what we saw and what's interesting is that he also has a win over Moicano. But he lost the first two rounds against Moicano and he put himself in a position in the third round where he had to get that fight stopped in order to win."Same thing with Clay Guida — the last half of the round he really picked up his pace, backed up Guida, and walked him into a knee. So if he decides he needs to put his foot on the gas, he can do.
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"He's got every skill in the world to do that, as well as that ridiculous guillotine he's got for someone who stands heavy on his lead leg like Zombie.

"It's going to be a philosophical change for Brian Ortega. And how he applies that for Korean Zombie. He's got good footwork, he manages range very well. But he's going to be the one moving in and out of punching range with Zombie because Chan Sung Jung likes to stand right on his opponent's front-foot and exchange punches.

"We need to see a mature performance from him and not get drawn into a gun-fight with Zombie.
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"I feel Korean Zombie is the one who has the clean knockout power. When they tangle on the floor, that's where his background in Brazilian jiu-jitsu comes in.

"But that's where Zombie is a bit of an unknown commodity because we've not really seen a great deal of his ground game aside from that twister — a very difficult submission to land.

The fight will also be decided on who can assert their game-plan. For Hardy, Korean Zombie's game-plan does not stress what the opponent brings to the Octagon but instead focuses on what he brings to the fight.
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"Korean Zombie comes in to do him and isn't really concerned about what his opponent brings back at him.

"From his earlier career, he took a loss getting into a war and trading punches. He's still got that mentality but he's more focused on getting his head off the center line and punishing them as they step-in.

"I think Zombie is going to expect Brian Ortega to be a better version of himself but stylistically Zombie is going to be the one to stand in the center and allow Brian Ortega to decide where he wants to engage.
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"Ortega has great footwork, we know he's good on the ground, but he is kind of a slow starter.

"Given that this is a five-round fight, the first round will be a really interesting lead to the rest of the fight — how they size each other up, what they expect of each other, and how they plan on taking the victory."Read more:
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