Having finished Chad Mendes and defeated Frankie Edgar, we are now at the point in Jose Aldo’s career where we can start talking about whether or not he’s “cleaned out” the featherweight division. Mendes and Edgar represented the two biggest threats to Aldo’s title, but Aldo emerged victorious in both fights. Now, with an injury to Anthony Pettis, Aldo will be facing Chan Sung Jung, a fighter who is a quality opponent but also a very clear underdog.
I have a lot of respect for the transformation Jung made since his KO loss to George Roop in the WEC. Jung’s style was to be the “Korean Zombie,” which meant he would simply walk forward and absorb strikes as he attacked his opponent. Obviously, eating strikes is a bad idea for any fighter, and it led to Jung being knocked out by Roop and defeated by Leonard Garcia. (As much as I disagreed with the Garcia decision, there’s no excuse for a fighter to even give the judges the opportunity to score the fight in Garcia’s favor.)
Since then, Jung decided that he couldn’t fight with the “Korean Zombie” style anymore. That remains his nickname, but he has improved by leaps and bounds since that moment. It culminated with Jung’s surprising victory over Dustin Poirier in May of last year – Jung was a heavy underdog but out-performed Poirier in every aspect of MMA.
Performances like that were good enough for Jung to be rated by FPR as the #6 featherweight in the world. Jung is above-average in every category. Not only has he greatly improved his striking, he’s displayed excellent ground skills as well. The Twister he pulled off against Garcia in their rematch was impressive but also not a fluke. In five UFC/WEC fights, Jung is up 5-0 in takedowns, 8-1 in guard passes, and 4-0 in submission attempts on his collective opponents.
So Jung has become a very good fighter, but has he become good enough to take out Aldo? Honestly, it’s hard to see how Jung does it. The riddle of Aldo is the same as it’s always been: it’s very hard to out-strike him, but it’s even harder to take him down. Aldo’s takedown defense rate stands at 92% and that’s after he was taken down twice by Edgar. In theory, the best way to establish an advantage on Aldo is to achieve top position on the ground, but that’s almost impossible in practice. Even Edgar was unable to hold Aldo down at all.
I anticipate that Aldo will force Jung into a striking match as he usually does. I also anticipate that Jung will be willing to engage in that striking match, but Aldo has a distinct advantage there. Aldo is much better at evading strikes – he is hit by 1.91 strikes per minute at 27% accuracy, compared to 3.77 strikes per minute at 36% accuracy for Jung. Again, Jung’s striking defense has been much better in his three UFC fights, but it’s still not as good as Aldo’s.
I believe that the most likely way Aldo loses is simply by getting out-pointed in three out of five rounds. Aldo is not the dominant champion that Jon Jones or Cain Velasquez is. His striking numbers in recent fights haven’t been too impressive: 76-60 vs. Edgar, 11-13 vs. Mendes, 51-40 vs. Kenny Florian, and 94-71 vs. Hominick. If Jung pulls off the upset it’s probably because he managed to land more strikes than Aldo over five rounds.
In that respect, I think Jung will likely be a bit more competitive than expected. Still, he’s the clear underdog in this match. Even though Jung is clearly good in all areas of MMA, he’s also not as good as Aldo at any one area. Jung is a solid, B+ featherweight who can probably “hang” with Aldo but will fall short of victory.
Pick: Jose Aldo by TKO