The UFC is riding the high of last weekend’s championship doubleheader as the company heads into this weekend with a showdown between top featherweights at UFC Fight Night: Korean Zombie vs. Ige.
In the headlining slot, “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung will put his No. 4 ranking on the line against the eighth-ranked Dan Ige in a five-round affair. The Zombie is coming off a loss in his last outing to Brian Ortega and looks to right the ship here with a statement victory over an emerging contender. Ige bounced back from a decision loss to Calvin Kattar with a highlight-reel win over Gavin Tucker. Ige’s reward is an opportunity to crack the top five with a win over a longtime star of the company.
In the co-main event, ezekiel-choke specialist Aleksei Oleinik takes on Moldovan brawler Serghei Spivac in a heavyweight contest. Oleinik is on the hunt for his 60th professional victory after suffering losses in his last two contests. Spivac has won back-to-back outings and has quietly turned into a surging contender in the division.
The main card also includes a bantamweight bout between Marlon “Chito” Vera and Davey Grant. Vera gained notoriety as the first man to defeat Sean O’Malley, but he was unable to capitalize on that momentum when he came up short in his last fight against José Aldo. Grant is riding a three-fight winning streak, with the last two of those wins coming by knockout. This is a chance for Vera to try to regain some of his momentum, while Grant has an opportunity to notch the biggest win of his career and possibly jump into the rankings.
Featherweights Julian Erosa and Seung Woo Choi will also square off on the main card, as will middleweights Wellington Turman and Bruno Silva. The main card opens in the welterweight division with longtime UFC veteran Matt Brown looking to rebound from his loss to Carlos Condit as he takes on Dhiego Lima.
UFC Fight Night: Korean Zombie vs. Ige takes place inside the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. The fights kick off in the afternoon. The prelims begin at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN+ and ESPN2. The main card follows at 7 p.m. ET. Combat Press writers Andrew Sumian and Matt Petela preview the action in this week’s edition of Toe-to-Toe.
Dan Ige is now 7-2 inside the Octagon and fresh off a 22-second victory over Gavin Tucker. Will he find more success against potentially the biggest name he’s ever met: the Korean Zombie?
Sumian: Ask and you shall receive. Ige personally called for this bout several times throughout the last 18 months. Now, he will finally get his wish to face one of the UFC’s most exciting and well-loved featherweights.
Both men are stellar strikers who round up their attack with a solid ground game that has led to a combined 13 submission victories. Ige will look to steal Jung’s top-five ranking, while the former title challenger is focused on defeating Ige in an effort to maintain his standing and secure another high-profile fight against a fellow featherweight.
Ige has without a doubt been one of the most successful additions to the UFC featherweight roster in recent memory. The Hawaiian is a masterful tactician who has been able to develop and execute well-designed game plans for a plethora of opponents throughout his career, culminating in a 15-3 record with nine stoppage wins. The surging Ige’s only loss in the last three years came in a hard-fought decision against fellow contender Calvin Kattar. He rebounded swiftly with a jaw-dropping knockout over the equally dangerous Gavin Tucker. The 29-year-old Ige is averaging 3.95 significant strikes per minute and 1.68 takedowns per 15 minutes. He’s entering his prime and poised to make a huge splash in the always-entertaining featherweight division.
It is impossible to not include Korean Zombie’s name in the list of the most entertaining fighters in UFC history. The former title challenger has fought the best of the featherweight division throughout his decade with the WEC and UFC. He has battled José Aldo, Yair Rodriguez, Dustin Poirier and Frank Edgar. Most recently, though, he suffered a one-sided decision loss to Brian Ortega that in all likelihood cost him a title shot.
Now, Jung looks to get back on track by taking out a fellow surging contender who is eager to secure a potential title-eliminator bout. There is very little that Zombie does not do well. The Korean fighter is a talented striker with brutal knockout power. He boasts an exceptional ground game that has translated into eight submission victories.
This is a high-level affair. Ige should possess a speed and volume advantage over Jung that he will look to exploit by firing off stiff jabs and putting together several slick combinations, which include powerful leg kicks and well-timed hooks. Ige is more than formidable on the ground, but Jung possesses the ground advantage.
Zombie should look to threaten early and often in an effort to disrupt Ige’s flow and momentum, but the younger Ige will score the biggest win of his career when he finishes Jung by strikes.
Petela: Be careful what you wish for.
The last time we saw Zombie in action, he didn’t bring the best version of himself to the cage against a highly motivated Ortega. However, Ige’s call-out of Jung after that performance will end up being a mistake.
This fight certainly has a chance to be a memorable one. Ige has looked impressive recently, outside of the loss to Kattar. Even in that fight, Ige had his moments and showed that he is on the level of a legitimate contender. He is also riding a ton of momentum after starching the aforementioned Tucker. This will be an all-action bout for as long as it lasts, but it will definitely conclude with an emphatic victory for the Korean fighter.
The lasting repercussions of this fight is that Zombie will be able to reassert himself back into the conversation as one of the best featherweights in the world. He is a couple of wins away from a title shot, but don’t be surprised when a number of top featherweights start trying to avoid him rather than call him out.
This fight will be a realization for Ige that he still has a big step to take before he is ready to be put in the title picture. It will also prove to be a growing experience in defeat. Only truly elite fighters are able to get past Ige, who is still improving as a fighter. He is only 29 years old, though, and it would not be a surprise to see him start winning those contests with top contenders as he continues to mature and grow.
Aleksei Oleinik continues on at age 43 despite losses in four of his last six fights. Will the submission specialist get back in the win column against Serghei Spivac?
Petela: Unlikely. This is not a good match-up for Oleinik. Spivac is a heck of a grappler, and Oleinik will have trouble sneaking in any submissions against the Moldovan. While Spivac is taking on a less-than-prime version of Oleinik, this would be a good name to have on his resume as he looks to continue to build toward being a legitimate title challenger.
Spivac has shown consistent improvement since joining the UFC roster. He stumbled out of the gates with a TKO loss, but he rebounded nicely with a submission win over Tai Tuivasa. He then fell via unanimous decision to Marcin Tybura before rattling off consecutive wins in his last two outings.
Spivac has demonstrated that he is capable of ending fights with his hands, an area that has become a particular weakness for Oleinik in the latter stage of his career. This will end up being a showcase fight for Spivac as he continues to gain steam in the heavyweight division.
Sumian: Agreed. Spivac is a true heavyweight star in the making. The Moldovan will secure a fairly noncompetitive TKO stoppage and send the submission sensation packing.
Bruno Silva — do we need to know this name?
Sumian: Anytime a UFC newcomer enters the Octagon boasting a 19-6 pro record with 16 wins by knockout, it warrants some attention. Silva is on a four-fight winning streak, but he has been absent from competition since late 2018. Thus, this debut is certainly one of the more interesting varieties. The Brazilian will have to answer many questions when he takes on Wellington Turman, who has compiled a 1-2 mark since joining the UFC.
If the Silva of 2018 shows up ready to compete, fans can expect a quick knockout victory for the newcomer as he adds his name to the ultra-competitive UFC middleweight division.
Petela: Silva is certainly an accomplished mixed martial artist. His 19-6 record is somewhat misleading. His most recent loss came in 2016. Prior to that setback, he hadn’t lost since 2012. This is a fighter who has grown to become nearly a complete product of the regional scene. This match-up will prove to be a true litmus test to see if this destroyer can translate his past success into something more now that he gets his shot on the big stage.
What one fighter’s UFC career is on the ropes at this event?
Petela: Aleksei Oleinik. The submission wiz has lost his last two fights and is only 2-4 over his last six appearances. All four of those losses have come via knockout. He is 43 years old, and a victory is likely his only way to preserve his spot on the UFC roster.
Sumian: Matt Brown. “The Immortal’s” time to become mortal has unfortunately come. Brown is dangerously close to a pink slip. He will lose to the younger and fresher Dhiego Lima, which will likely lead to the UFC questioning why it is keeping an aging veteran around who has no chance to compete against top competition.
Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?
Sumian: Marlon Vera and Davey Grant. These guys are quietly two of the most tenacious bantamweight finishers in the UFC today. They have combined for 24 finishes throughout their careers. Vera is eager to get back to his winning ways after a December loss to José Aldo. Meanwhile, Grant is out to extend his winning streak to four after delivering knockouts in his July 2020 and March 2021 outings. There will be fireworks when these two meet in the center of the Octagon and exchange hands for as long as this fight potential “Fight of the Night” lasts.
Petela: Matt Semelsberger and Khaos Williams. These two welterweights are going to bring it. “Semi the Jedi” is 2-0 since joining the UFC. He announced his arrival emphatically with a 16-second knockout in his sophomore performance. Semelsberger’s abilities, combined with the notable one-punch knockout power that Williams brings to the table, should combine for an absolute slugfest or a one-punch finish that immediately goes viral in the Twittersphere.
Who takes home the “Performance of the Night” honors?
Petela: Dhiego Lima. Last weekend, his brother Douglas lost the Bellator welterweight strap to Yaroslav Amosov via unanimous decision. The family will fare much better this weekend, though. Dhiego has an all-action opponent in Matt Brown — this fight won’t be boring, that’s for sure. With an emphatic finish over the tough veteran, the younger of the Lima brothers will walk away with a huge win and a post-fight bonus.
Sumian: Julian Erosa. The comeback sensation will make it four in a row when he scores a TKO of Seung Woo Choi. The Washington native has quietly established one of the most promising return campaigns in UFC history. He will further that run with a decisive win on Saturday night.
Pair this card with…
Sumian: A passing of the torch. This card features three prominent bouts that include longtime vets who should be nearing their end: The Korean Zombie, Matt Brown and Aleksei Oleinik. All three of these men will suffer defeats, while their counterparts are set up for even bigger bouts.
Petela: Flying Dog Fruit Punch Sour. It is going to be a big night for Frederick, Md., as their guy, Matt Semelsberger, notches the biggest win of his career over Khaos Williams. So celebrate along with them by enjoying one of the better beers that comes out of the western Maryland town. Iit couldn’t be more fitting, because it will definitely leave a sour taste in the mouth of Khaos Williams and his fans.
Main Card (ESPN+ and ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET)
FW: Chan Sung Jung vs. Dan Ige
HW: Aleksei Oleinik vs. Serghei Spivac
BW: Marlon Vera vs. Davey Grant
FW: Julian Erosa vs. Seung Woo Choi
MW: Wellington Turman vs. Bruno Silva
WW: Dhiego Lima vs. Matt Brown
Preliminary Card (ESPN+ and ESPN2, 4 p.m. ET)
LHW: Nick Negumereanu vs. Aleksa Camur
Women’s StrawW: Virna Jandiroba vs. Kanako Murata
WW: Matt Semelsberger vs. Khaos Williams
HW: Josh Parisian vs. Roque Martinez
LW: Joaquim Silva vs. Ricky Glenn
Women’s FlyW: Lara Procópio vs. Casey O’Neill
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