The UFC featherweight champion returns to action this Saturday night at UFC 273.
Alexander Volkanovski will step back into the Octagon for the first time since his unanimous decision victory against Brian Ortega in September last year. That marked Volkanovski’s second consecutive title defense since winning the championship from Max Holloway in 2019.
At UFC 273, Volkanovski will face Chan Sung Jung, better known as “The Korean Zombie.” Jung earned the headline spot following his victory against Dan Ige in June last year. He’s won three of his last four bouts with his only defeat coming at the hands of Brian Ortega in October 2020.
Continue reading for our full Volkanovski vs. Korean Zombie staff predictions, picks, betting preview, and latest odds before UFC 273.
Alexander Volkanovski is a massive favorite against Chan Sung Jung as we get closer to UFC 273 this Saturday night.
- Volkanovski: -720
- Korean Zombie: +500
This fight is a very fun fight for fans, it puts together two fighters who can be tactical geniuses but who also have the potential to drag out a blood and guts war should they need to. Alexander Volkanovski has proven time and time again that he deserves the title he holds, most recently cementing it against Ortega after the controversial rivalry with Max Holloway. However, once again, a win over Chan Sung Jung builds on top of that legacy he is creating so I expect a Volkanovski that is as motivated as ever.
The Korean Zombie’s name is somewhat misleading nowadays. Early in his career, back and forth wars characterized him, but his style is not the chaotic wild approach the name would imply. Zombie is a very calculated fighter, he stands in a relatively short stance with a low guard and heavy lead leg. He likes to slip and weave reactionarily in the pocket because his major strengths are counters, length, and power. He utilizes a tricky and stiff jab that comes from beneath his opponent’s line of sight and looks to draw out big shots from his opponents. He then slips to both sides, but slipping to his right sets up his signature uppercut or a right straight over the top. The same movement blends into his takedowns. He is almost always planted, like a crouched animal ready to pounce, but because of this, there is very little excessive footwork. He usually needs to wait for his opponent to lash out at him to land his crisp combinations.
In and out movement will be key for Volkanovski, he is the more explosive fighter in terms of footwork, but staying inside the pocket I don’t think he is necessarily as accurate or direct a striker as Zombie. However, his use of leg kicks will be especially effective as Zombie does stand heavy on the lead. Furthermore, Zombie does eat the kicks almost intentionally if it will allow him to fire back and catch his opponent in range, so rather than using the kicks to enter, it would be much smart for Volkanovski to end his combinations with kicks as he exits or find a way to tag Zombie and exit immediately off of the line. Volkanovski is great at freezing his opponents before he commits, he has many combinations that start from a select few looks, especially with his overhangs which he will alternate between bouncing in and out and double stepping in, often catching his opponents off guard once they try to read it. He does a similar thing with his right cross which either he steps out defensively or does a stance switch to land on the opposite side. When he does this he may be able to draw out Zombie’s counter, thinking that Volkanovski is retreating out of range at which point the follow up shot can land. Zombie is one of the very best at evading with pure head movement and landing accurately in return, but attacking the body to open the head has been a tactic successfully used against him in the past and something Volkanovski should exploit.
In terms of grappling, I think it will be very difficult for Zombie to change levels under Volkanovski both due to his constant movement, but also because even when he throws high he usually maintains a very low and wide base. Volkanovski on the other hand may be able to take Chan Sung Jung down, but the Korean is so dangerous on the ground the question is whether he will choose to. Volkanovski is usually happy to sit in guard or half guard and frame off for ground and pound, and doesn’t necessarily have to do a great deal of transitional jiu jitsu to get the most out of his style. Zombie on the other hand very much likes to work his way from powerful position to powerful position, usually with the back being the endgame. He has an excruciatingly tight body triangle on the back, and his ability to keep it tight while maintaining dexterity in his upper body allows him to actively strike and chase the submission almost flawlessly. For the most part, Volkanovski should win out with his top game and takedowns but should he give up one opportunity, Zombie’s on his back could be the single most dangerous position for Volkanovski in the match.
While this explains where either man is most or least advantageous, the variable that I believe will decide the fight is who can dictate the pace. Volkanovski is a high pressure fighter, and even if he isn’t throwing to cause damage in every moment, he is doing something. Whether it’s feinting for forcing his opponent into a corner, his movement is erratic and constant and this usually breaks his opponents. Zombie is calculated, and if you get caught in his pace, he will break you down with his jab and slip and counter when he gives you an opportunity to commit. This fight is up to Volkanovski to set a pace and stay on it for five rounds, and if he can do so I think he greatly enhances his chances of winning.
Prediction: Alexander Volkanovski to win
Volkanovski is the epitome of a well-rounded fighter who doesn’t just do everything well but does everything better than most others in his division. On the feet, Volk has a unique ability to land with more precision and aggression at range even though he is often the shorter striker. This is because he has a distinctive but rare counter striking style. Most counter strikers move backwards and look for their opponent to make a mistake, then capitalize with a big shot. Volkanovski, on the other hand, is often the one moving forward. He uses feints to create openings and mistakes for his own strikes. But, what makes him so special is that he’ll force his opponent to counter his feint so Volk can counter the counter with a combination. Said more directly, Volk will walk forward, feint a strike, cause his opponent to react with their own strike, and then he’ll land a heavy and varied combination of his own. This approach demonstrates his unmatched fight IQ and allows him to be so successful at range striking. On the mat, Volkanovski is an incredibly strong wrestler and grappler. His low center of gravity makes it difficult for someone to take him down. If he is taken down, he scrambles like a freshly caught fish dropped on a dock, it is a challenge for even the highest level of grapplers to hold him and finish him. Even in a mounted guillotine, Brian Ortega who might have the best jiu-jitsu in the division, couldn’t choke out the Aussie. The champ’s typical path to victory is to piece up his opponent’s whole body, starting with chopping leg kicks and ending with heavy shots to the chin.
Speaking of heavy shots to the chin, Jung, better known as “The Korean Zombie” has devastating power for the 145 division. Zombie has an extensive resume and level of experience in the UFC. At his best, Zombie looks to get into fire fights where he can lean on his stone jaw and edge in power. In more technical bouts, Jung is a high-level striker with solid output, accuracy, and variety. He often head-hunts from distance but does not telegraph his shots, instead, he mixes in takedowns to force his opponent into bringing their hands down. If their hands are high, Zombie’s path for a takedown is clear and he will explode into a shot. If his opponent’s hands drop, he’ll look to land a heavy right hand. While Jung has fought and beat many of the upper echelon of featherweights for the last decade, the missing link in his game is volume and movement. Against fighters with more output or fluid footwork, Zombie can be forced into a defense approach or baited into swinging at air.
Not to oversimplify the fight, but, everything Zombie does, outside of one shot power, Volkanovski does better. Volk will have the advantage in volume, technique, footwork, and striking IQ. While wrestling and grappling, Volkanovski will have the fundamental and strength advantages too. Outside of a one-hitter-quitter, I see the champ remaining following a technical and dominant performance.
Prediction: Volkanovski by Decision
Volkanovksi, arguably the pound-for-pound number one fighter in the UFC, is perhaps both underrated and underappreciated as a champion of the highly competitive featherweight division. This is largely due to many people believing the fights between Volk and Max Holloway could have been scored in the other direction – Volk is officially 2-0 against Holloway. Albeit a justifiable opinion by many, Max is a top 10 pound-for-pound fighter in his own right, and this, parlayed with Volk beating an extremely dangerous Brian Ortega in his last fight, should warrant him being perceived as the elite fighter he is.
Beyond deserving respect as a fighter and champion based on the octagon success he has had, Volkanovksi has high-level attributes that jump off the screen, most notably being his fight intelligence. Often, intelligence is difficult to access when analyzing fighters due to the challenge of ascertaining a plan contrary to merely reacting to the progression of the fight; but for Volk, it is quite easy to see what his plan is throughout the duration of the fight, and even more impressively, it is easy to see him successfully implementing said plan. Whether it be chain wrestling against an elite boxer like Holloway or keeping distance via movement and outside leg kicks against the dangerous grappler in Ortega, Volkanovksi has the unique skill to fight the fight that creates the largest disparity in skills between him and his opponent.
As alluded to, Volkanovksi has an extremely well-rounded game that is elite at all levels. In striking, he utilizes movement to land boxing combinations when in the pocket and then outside leg kicks when at range. Often, he has greater success in both distances, as his kicks are fast and damaging while his boxing is underrated and leads nicely into his impressive grappling. The style of moving in and out of range, while mixing in wrestling when needed, is able to be done for an entire 25-minute affair because he has transcendent cardio. Lastly, as the Ortega fight illustrated, Volk is tough and stays extremely calm in the face of adversity – a quality befitting that of a champion.
While Volkanovksi is perhaps underappreciated amongst the UFC community, the Korean Zombie has a large following of energetic fans who are happy to see the long-tenured veteran of the sport get a second title shot – the first being in 2013.The attribute that makes the Korean Zombie greatly beloved among fight fans is in the name, that is, he fights like a zombie. What I mean by this is he continually advances forwarded regardless of the success his opponent has had in striking. The rationale behind doing so is twofold: first, he is an extremely durable fighter who believes his chin will outlast his opponent, and second, he believes the fight-ending, damaging power of his hands supersedes that of his opponent. The combination of inherently desiring an all-out war through a march-forwarded style, while having the intent of finishing the fight via a massive right hand, explains why the Zombie has the fanbase as he does.
The forward pressure and fight-ending intentions translate to the Korean Zombie’s other main avenue of fighting – an elite submission game. Often, the Korean Zombie will look to damage his opponent early in the fight, and then once satisfied, he will look to wrestle and get the fight to the mat where 8 of his 17 wins are via submission. This style of fighting, where the damage on the feet sets up a dangerous ground game, is a systematic approach only high-level, elite fighters can employ.
On paper, the Korean Zombie has the power on the feet and elite submission game to justify a path to victory for the challenger. The issue I see is twofold: one, Volkanovksi is the far better striker, and two, Volkanovksi just beat perhaps the best submission artist in the division in Brian Ortega. So, I anticipate Volkanovksi looking quite dominant from start to finish in this bout, as he has faced opponents of similar threats in the past and overcame those obstacles to earn a convincing victory. Ultimately, I believe Volkanovksi frustrates the Korean Zombie by landing outside leg kicks and peppering-like strikes while moving away from any counterattack, and once the Zombie looks for a takedown, I believe Volkanovksi will combat all, yes, all, takedowns from being firmly secured.
Bet: Volkanovksi by Decision
Braeden Arbour is an aspiring journalist out of Ontario, Canada. He is a recent graduate of Trent University, with a black belt in Karate and a blue belt in Judo. He has also been an avid fan of MMA for the last decade.
Michael Pounders is a high school English Teacher, a boxer himself, and is a fan who loves, gambles on, and nerds out about all things MMA.