The main event for UFC 273 will feature a featherweight title fight between two men who are familiar with the cost of counters.
Earning the moniker of “The Korean Zombie” for the relentless pressure-fighting he stepped onto the WEC stage with, Chan Sung Jung embodies the fighting spirit of a country that has been through its share of adversity.
Coming from a kickboxing and traditional martial arts base, Jung confidently presses through space, almost inviting his opposition in so that he can capitalize on their actions. And once he can corral his target between the cage and inner-black octagon lines, Jung morphs into a non-disseminating offensive marauder, going to work on any piece of flesh that becomes available.
Whether he is slipping and returning slick uppercut-hook variations or unleashing flying knees up the center, Jung offers plenty of offense inside the pocket that his opposition has to respect. That said, if Jung cannot force this fight into his preferred terms, then he may run the risk of following around a foe who is possibly more fleet-of-foot.
Enter Alexander Volkanovski.
An acclaimed wrestler-turned-rugby player, Volkanovski initially stepped onto the scene as a come-forward fighter who typically approached the pocket like an oncoming juggernaut from his compact stance. A natural athlete, Volkanovski shows little issue when having to crash distance with his patent kicks and crosses, strikes that have been typically set up off of prodding jabs.
However, since incorporating the influences of Brad Riddell and his sister gym City Kickboxing, Volkanovski has seemingly sharpened his feints, footwork, and overall striking fundamentals, measuring and moving in space more smoothly and on balance than before. The 33-year-old champion will now change up his combination approach, doing things like leading with stance-debasing kicks and finishing off combinations with a long lead hand.
It’s a small detail, but I love when fighters use balance-disrupting leg kicks to get beats on their opposition like Alex Volkanovski does to Chad Mendes here…
Debases the stance with an inside leg kick, then utilizes shifts, prodding shots and a high guard to close in #UFC266 pic.twitter.com/lKJlN2ndIP
— Dan Tom (@DanTomMMA) September 23, 2021
Volkanovski also has taken some of the feinting swagger from his stablemates, showing or throwing away certain shots to land others with a bigger picture in mind. That said, Volkanovski is not beyond being stung as he’ll need to mind his distance and level changes against someone who can time uppercuts and counters like Jung can.