MMA Junkie analyst Dan Tom breaks down the UFC’s top bouts, including the main event for UFC Fight Night 225, which takes place Saturday at Singapore Indoor Stadium in Singapore. The event streams on ESPN+.
Max Holloway (24-7 MMA, 20-7 UFC)
Height: 5’11” Age: 31 Weight: 145 lbs. Reach: 69″
Last fight: Decision win over Arnold Allen (April 15, 2023)
Camp: Gracie Technics/Hawaii Elite MMA (Hawaii)
Stance/striking style: Switch-stance/kickboxing
Risk management: Good
+ Former UFC featherweight champion
+ Regional MMA titles
+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt
+ 10 KO victories
+ 2 submission wins
+ 3 first-round finishes
+ Building pace and pressure
+ Solid feints and footwork
+ Excellent variety of shot selection
+ Improved wrestling ability
^ Defensively and offensively
+ Deceptively counters clinches
^ Strikes well off of the breaks
+ Underrated ground game
^ Slick submissions in transition
Chan Sung Jung (17-7 MMA, 7-3 UFC)
Height: 5’7″ Age: 36 Weight: 145 lbs. Reach: 72″
Last fight: TKO loss to Alexander Volkanovski (April 9, 2022)
Camp: Korean Zombie MMA (Korea)
Stance/striking style: Orthodox/kickboxing
Risk management: Good
+ Kickboxing experience
^ Pro record of 15-6 with 11 KO’s
+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt
+ 6 knockouts victories
+ 8 submission wins
+ 9 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Aggressive pace and pressure
+ Effective combination striker
^ Often shifts stances on attack
+ Catches kicks and counters well
+ Underrated wrestling ability
^ Defensively and offensively
+ Superb transitional grappler
^ Works well from front-headlock
Point of interest: The cost of counters
The main event in Singapore features a featherweight fight between two fan favorites 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 Max Holloway.
Displaying solid striking and footwork fundamentals since storming onto the UFC scene (as one of the promotion’s youngest signees, no less), Holloway, who was already improving from fight to fight, turned a big corner in his career after his encounter with Cub Swanson.
Since then, we have witnessed a technical evolution unfold from the Hawaiian, who embraces his creativity and range with a diverse arsenal of attacks. Whether Holloway is shifting his stance mid-combination or adjusting his timing on the fly, the former featherweight kingpin makes for a hard read on the feet.
When feeling in stride, the 31-year-old looks to pay off his previous bodywork by punctuating his presence with everything from spinning sidekicks to digging left hooks to the liver. Coupled with his ability to counter effectively from either stance, Holloway can hypothetically take a fight in many different directions.
That all said, it is the building nature of the champion’s game that makes him stand out from the rest of the UFC stable.
Embodying a fighter archetype that I like to refer to as “a builder,” Holloway will not only build on his output, but his understanding of the fight’s traffic will also increase as he intelligently takes tools from his opponent and incorporates them into his game.
Nevertheless, offensive volume – no matter how clever – comes with a price.
Point of interest: Protect your head from the dead
Considering Jung’s overall grappling abilities and submission savvy from the front-headlock position, Holloway will have to be extra careful if he elects to grapple with his Korean counterpart.
Although he only semi-recently received a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Jung has long been a treacherous transitional threat who can turn the tide of a fight off of just one bad shot.
Predicating most of his offense from the front-headlock position, Jung has a plethora of front-choke threats that he can chain to back-takes, which is ultimately another position where “The Korean Zombie” comes to life.
Since spending some time stateside to train alongside Henry Cejudo and others, Jung has also appeared to further improve upon his wrestling, demonstrating some smart, well-timed shots in his last outing. I would not necessarily be surprised to see Jung mix in some of these looks this Saturday, but I’m not sure how successful he will be.
Holloway’s superb striking may hallmark a large part of his brand, but the Hawaiian has quietly made consistent improvements to his counter grappling, maintaining an impressive 84 percent takedown defense rate.
Even when having his takedown defense tested by some of the best wrestlers in the division, Holloway has been able to snuff out a large majority of the shots sent his way (even smoothly re-wrestling his way to ride positions of his own on occasion).
Not only does Holloway display the balance and defense to stuff takedowns, but he also shows an excellent awareness of how to conduct his hips and grips in close. Deceptively hand-fighting to counter clinches and grappling efforts, Holloway demonstrates a knack for striking off the breaks, something that could be worth watching for in this fight.
More importantly, whether Holloway is conducting himself from the clinch or inside the chaos of transition, he has always prioritized protecting his neck and head by either maintaining an upright posture in close or keeping his hands in the proper neighborhood to defend grasps.
Even back in his controversially scored loss to Dennis Bermudez, Holloway showed the defensive habits of defending chokes (that often weren’t coming his way) in transit, which tells me that this habit is deeply hardwired into his system. That said, Jung will still be but one scramble or front choke away from potentially changing the complexion of this fight.
Point of interest: Odds and opinions
The oddsmakers and the public are siding with the Hawaiian fighter, listing Holloway -1000 and Jung +560 via FanDuel.
Considering the amount of respect Holloway usually commands at the betting window, seeing a spread this wide doesn’t exactly surprise me.
You don’t want to critique anyone too harshly for getting bludgeoned by Alexander Volkanovksi, but Jung really appeared to show his age the last time out. And when you add in the Korean’s inactivity throughout the latter stretches of his career, I find it hard to make a case for Jung here.
Even though I believe that Jung’s counters will be potent early, it’s almost impossible to bet against the proven durability of Holloway’s Hawaiian chin.
Even though Holloway isn’t afraid to mix in his grappling chops, I suspect that he elects to potshot Jung standing from southpaw considering both his competency from that stance and his counterpart’s past problems facing it.
I’ll take Holloway to survive some early scares in order to pull away down the stretch and force a stoppage via strikes by the fourth round.