Before his walkout at Arco Arena, the promotion played a video package in which Jung basically stated he wanted a brawl. He said he always wants a brawl, but few opponents would give him one once they got in the cage.
Typically, prefight video packages aren’t all that meaningful -- but this one was. Here was a fighter basically unknown in the U.S., begging for a brawl against one of the most notorious brawlers the sport had to offer in Garcia.
The fight, as you probably recall, turned out to be a consensus fight of the year candidate. Garcia would win a controversial split decision in a fight in which, according to fightmetric.com, the two combined to throw 273 “power” strikes.
As great a moment as that was in the story of the “Korean Zombie,” Tuesday’s win over Dustin Poirier at the UFC on Fuel TV 3 card in Fairfax, Va., might be better.
Jung (13-3) is such a better fighter today than he was two years ago against Garcia. He sparked a "Zombie" fever in the U.S. with his style, but mostly for entertainment value. When the WEC merged with the UFC in 2011, few expected him to rise to a title shot within three fights.
That’s exactly where he is, though, after a dramatic fourth-round stoppage over Poirier (12-2). It had every element we’ve come to expect from a Jung fight, but the biggest thing to focus on here might be the Zombie’s growing bag of tools.
His demeanor has changed, for starters. In an interview with ESPN.com before the fight, Jung said he had taken a more serious approach to a fight of this importance.
He didn’t grin widely during his walkout, which he typically does, and he was dialed in early. While Poirier tensely pumped his jab at the beginning of rounds to break the ice, Jung seized control with aggressive, purposeful offense.
“I don’t think I had a bad night,” Poirier said. “He came ready.”
Count the different ways Jung did damage in the fight. A beautiful trip from the clinch put Poirier down in the first round, where Jung opened a cut on his opponent's head with an elbow.
In the second frame, Jung caught a kick from Poirier and dumped him with a straight right hand. He’d work to mount, transition to an armbar attempt, to a triangle, back to an armbar.
Leading up to the finish, a visibly tiring but still aggressive Jung landed an uppercut flush to Poirier’s chin before following with a flying knee attempt. Poirier was simply overwhelmed at that point, leading to a D’Arce choke finish, of all things.
“In the beginning of the third round I looked into Dustin’s eyes and felt, ‘I can do this,’” Jung said. “Honestly, I didn’t know the D’Arce was going to come out. I hadn’t prepared for that.”
Was it enough of a performance to give fans a sense of confidence that Jung can win a potential fight against Brazilian star and current featherweight champion Jose Aldo? Probably not. Aldo (21-1) would still likely be a heavy, heavy favorite in that fight.
What it was, however, was proof that the 25-year-old Jung is more than a brawler with a good chin. He’s become a far more technical martial artist than the one who simply promised a good show during that first impression in California.