Following a three-year layoff, former title contender Chan Sung Jung, better known as "The Korean Zombie," will return to action this weekend in the main event of UFC Fight Night from Houston against featherweight contender Dennis Bermudez.
Jung has been fulfilling his military service in South Korea, but now looks to restart his career by facing one of the toughest competitors at 145 pounds. Bermudez has proven to be a tough out for anyone and everyone in the featherweight division and he'll look to climb up the top 10 with a win over Jung on Saturday night.
Also on the card, highly touted strawweight prospect Alexa Grasso makes her second UFC appearance as she faces veteran competitor Felice Herrig in the co-main event. Grasso has been tabbed as the next big thing at 115 pounds, but Herrig looked better than ever in her last fight and will give the young prospect everything she can handle.
In today's fantasy preview, we'll examine these fights and several other key matchups to see who has the edge going into Saturday night at UFC Fight Night: Bermudez vs. The Korean Zombie.
These are the fights that are just too close to call, but a few minor differences between favorite and underdog could lead one fighter to victory and the other to defeat.
Dennis Bermudez vs. Chan Sung Jung
The main event features two of the most exciting featherweights in the world as Dennis Bermudez looks to secure his third win in a row while facing "The Korean Zombie," Chan Sung Jung, who will be coming back from a loss in his last fight against Jose Aldo in 2013.
Obviously, Bermudez has been the far more active fighter with Jung being gone for the past three years, and that experience will undoubtedly help him going into the fight. Bermudez is an extremely active fighter who loves to put the pressure on his opponents from the opening bell until the time the fight is over. Bermudez averages over four significant strikes landed per minute with 45 percent accuracy while also mixing in nearly five takedowns per 15 minutes in the cage. That non-stop style will certainly help Bermudez as he looks to take advantage of Jung after the long layoff.
At his best, Jung is still one of the top featherweights in the world, with an extremely well rounded game that includes ferocious knockout power and a devastating submission game. Prior to his loss to Aldo in 2013, Jung had reeled off three of his biggest victories to date while finishing all of his opponents, including a very impressive win over Dustin Poirier in 2012. That being said, it's impossible to know how much training Jung was able to add to his daily routine while doing his military service, and three years away is an awfully long time to come back while facing a top 10 featherweight like Bermudez.
All those factors combined just seem to work against Jung getting a win on Saturday night, and so Bermudez remains the pick to get the victory based on his hard charging style and his ability to push the pace for 25 straight minutes.
Prediction: Dennis Bermudez by unanimous decision
Alexa Grasso vs. Felice Herrig
As the strawweight division continues to search for a worthy contender to face champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Alexa Grasso has arrived in the UFC to throw her name in the hat as a potential future contender, and the highly touted Mexican prospect got off to a good start by picking up an impressive win over Heather Jo Clark in her UFC debut.
Grasso is a very well rounded fighter with knockout power in her hands and a very underrated submission game on the ground. Grasso may have faced the notorious Octagon jitters in her debut, but still managed to outwork Clark for three rounds to win an easy decision. Now with that first fight behind her, Grasso can hopefully put together the kind of performance that landed her a spot on the roster in the first place as well as the tag as the next big thing in the division.
As for Herrig, she has certainly faced some ups and downs in her UFC career, but she looked better than ever in her last fight as she submitted Kailin Curran in under two minutes in her last trip to the Octagon. Herrig comes from a striking background, so she's more than happy to throw hands with anybody, but she also possesses a very dangerous ground game where she can catch anybody in a scramble with an unexpected submission.
This might be a pick for Fight of the Night, especially if Herrig comes out as aggressive and determined as she did in her last performance. Grasso could be a future contender, but she has to get through a seasoned veteran this weekend to prove it and Herrig certainly won't just roll over for anybody when she steps into the cage. That being said, Grasso seemingly has more ways to win, especially if she uses her power to set up the clinch and work for the takedown. Grasso can unload a barrage of strikes, and if she can get Herrig pinned up against the cage wall, look for her to explode with punches in a series of combinations over three rounds to get the job done.
Another candidate for Fight of the Night could be this lightweight clash between heavy hitter Abel Trujillo and former Ultimate Fighter competitor James Vick.
While Trujillo has suffered through a roller coaster ride in his UFC career, his last two wins have been some of most impressive work to date. Trujillo is best known as a knockout slugger, but he's starting to add a lot of other elements to his arsenal in recent fights. Trujillo has always landed with good power and accuracy on the feet, but he's combined that striking acumen with a rapidly improving ground game lately.
Trujillo's return to his wrestling game might come in handy against Vick, who hasn't attempted a single takedown since coming to the UFC. Vick prefers to stand and trade with his opponents and he'll enjoy a whopping seven-inch reach advantage over Trujillo in this fight. That reach and length have served Vick well against most of his opponents, so Trujillo will have to be careful not to spend 15 minutes on the end of his punches.
Still, Trujillo's ability to charge forward and blast away at the head and body with vicious punching power should help to negate that reach. Add to that, Trujillo could use his takedowns to keep Vick guessing on the feet, which in turn might take away the Texan’s kicks and knees out of fear of being put on the mat. All that combined means Trujillo just has more ways to win and should be able to get the job done on Saturday night.
Prediction: Abel Trujillo by TKO, Round 3
These are the fights that appear to be a little more one-sided, but remember that this is MMA, where anything can - and usually does - happen.
Newcomer Volkan Oezdemir has the unenviable task of stepping in on short notice against a very motivated Ovince Saint Preux.
The former University of Tennessee football standout has always been considered a powerhouse at light heavyweight, but for all the talent Saint Preux possessed, he's struggled to translate that into wins against the best fighters at 205 pounds. Most recently, Saint Preux has suffered back-to-back defeats against Jon Jones and Jimi Manuwa, so he'll be looking to make a statement when he steps back into the Octagon on Saturday night.
It's tough to judge what Oezdemir will offer as a challenge to Saint Preux.
Ozedemir is a 12-1 fighter out of Switzerland with a solid reputation for finishing his opponents by either knockout or submission. Unfortunately, for all his success, Ozedemir just hasn't faced much competition that's really pushed him to get better and now he's taking a decided step up against a top 10 opponent like Saint Preux.
Unless Saint Preux has somehow taken Ozedemir lightly because he is taking this fight on short notice, expect the veteran light heavyweight to pick his shots until he finally lands the finishing blow. Saint Preux will enjoy a big size and reach advantage in this fight and as long as his confidence hasn't been rattled from two consecutive losses, he should make short work of Ozedemir on Saturday night.
Prediction: Ovince Saint Preux by knockout, Round 1
Anthony Hamilton has struggled to find consistency since joining the UFC heavyweight roster, but his ebb and flow of wins and losses should lead him to victory this weekend against newcomer Marcel Fortuna.
Fortuna enters the fight after a year and a half off while dealing with a size disadvantage against a fairly powerful heavyweight slugger like Hamilton. What Fortuna has going for him is a very nasty ground game with a long list of submission victories on his record. Hamilton has struggled in the past with his submission defense and that could play directly into what Fortuna does well.
Still, Fortuna has spent most of his career fighting at light heavyweight, and this time around he will be going up against a 6-foot-5 monster in Hamilton, who hits like a truck and has the ability to steam roll anybody who doesn't respect his power. Hamilton will also enjoy the edge in Octagon experience as well as a massive size and power advantage. That all adds up to Hamilton getting back in the win column when it's all said and done.
Prediction: Anthony Hamilton by knockout, Round 1
It's been more than a year since Chris Gruetzemacher stepped into the Octagon and he's going to face a very tough challenge against powerful featherweight Chas Skelly this weekend.
Skelly has only tasted defeat twice during his UFC career, with one loss against perennial top 15 contender Darren Elkins and the other coming by majority decision to rising featherweight star Mirsad Bektic. Outside of those setbacks, Skelly has largely run roughshod over the competition, as he combines a power wrestling and submission game with an ever improving striking arsenal. Skelly also enjoys a huge size advantage over almost everyone at 145 pounds and he'll certainly look to lean on Grutzemacher when they clash on Saturday night.
Gruetzemacher's biggest problem in this fight is that he typically looks to out wrestle and out hustle his opposition, but seemingly everything he does well is exactly what Skelly has perfected since coming to the UFC. It's hard to imagine Gruetzemacher out wrestling Skelly given his power and size advantage and unless he can wear him down over three rounds, the former Ultimate Fighter competitor could find himself down big after the first couple of rounds.
It could result in Gruetzemacher taking a big chance late in the fight to make up ground, which could give Skelly the perfect opening to finish the fight with either a TKO or a submission. Either way, it's tough to pick against Skelly in this matchup.
Prediction: Chas Skelly by submission, Round 3
Since moving down to 115 pounds, Jessica Andrade has looked like a serious contender to take the title away from Joanna Jedrzejczyk. In her strawweight debut, Andrade absolutely mauled former title contender Jessica Penne and then put away Joanne Calderwood with a submission in her second appearance in the division. Now Andrade will look to solidify her spot as a top contender when she faces former Invicta FC champion Angela Hill.
Of course, Hill's name should sound familiar after her time on The Ultimate Fighter season 20, where she entered the competition with only one professional fight on her record before losing to eventual champion Carla Esparza in the opening round. Hill then went onto face a string of top 10 competition before leaving the UFC to get some experience outside the Octagon. Since that time, Hill has developed into a serious threat in the strawweight division thanks to blistering striking power and a much improved ground game to compliment her standup. Hill has looked outstanding in her last few fights, including two Invicta FC title bouts that saw her going five rounds in both.
While those accolades are all well deserved, Hill will still enter this fight as a decided underdog because Andrade has earned her spot as a top five strawweight. On paper, Andrade should win this fight based on a litany of factors, most importantly that she has faced and defeated the better competition while also possessing more ways to put away Hill over three rounds. Andrade has incredible power in her hands, which she combines with a very nasty ground game.
Still, Hill's improvements over the past year have made her a big threat in this matchup, especially if Andrade is already looking at what comes next with a potential title shot looming overhead. Hill has to avoid the ground game because her improvements on the mat still won't keep her out of trouble against an experienced grappler like Andrade. On the feet, Hill can throw down with anybody at 115 pounds, and if she can catch Andrade sleeping early, it could shift the momentum to give her a huge victory in her return to the UFC.
Prediction: Angela Hill by unanimous decision