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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - Brian Ortega defeats The Korean Zombie at UFC Fight Night in Abu Dhabi after a two-year absence
Brian Ortega produced one of the performances of his career to overcome Chan Sung Jung, “The Korean Zombie”, at UFC Fight Night 3 in Abu Dhabi to move step closer towards a shot at the Featherweight championship belt he craves so much.
The American, ranked 2 in the world and now with an impressive record of 15-1-0, defeated his 33-year-old opponent via a unanimous decision in one of the most anticipated bouts of Fight Island 2, the five-event series that kicked off on September 27 with UFC 253 and will wrap up next weekend with UFC 254.
Ortega had not fought since a fourth round TKO loss against Max Holloway at UFC 231 in December 2018, and had insisted a few days ago that there is no bad blood between him and The Korean Zombie, despite what has been portrayed in the media after a back and forth of trash talk eventually led to him slapping a friend of his opponent at a UFC event last March.
It led to a backlash among some fans, and many wrote his chances off on his return.
“I was counted out,” Ortega said after his win. “I understand, you leave the game for two years, you get counted out. I’m here to remind everyone. It felt great to have this happen again, having your hand raised at this level is important, it’s the number one thing.”
He admitted that sports fandom, especially in mixed martial arts, can be fickle sometimes.
“I’m a Laker fan, I’ve been a Laker since I was a kid, Dodger fan since I was a kid, win or lose, I’m with my team.” the 27-year-old said.
“MMA, I bet you I’ve got a bunch of Korean fans, because they just left Korean Zombie and now, they’re coming to me and then, if I lose, they go to the next person. We have short-term memory fans, I guess. For those of my fans who stayed with me, I love you guys and know that I truly appreciate you guys from the bottom of my heart. For those who switch up, pick someone, stay loyal, make us feel good about what we do.”
Ortega put down his win to a newly found discipline and a solid strategy devised by his team.
“This is the first time I actually stuck to a game plan. Usually I abort game plan my, but we never really had one to begin with, we’d kinda make a semi-one up, but this is the first time I’ve ever had a true game plan, had MMA coaches, not just this coach, that coach. I’ll do what I have to do, in this sport you have to take these chances.”
Just before Ortega’s win at the top of the bill, Brazilian Jessica Andrade defeated Katlyn Chookagian of the US via a first-round TKO in their flyweight bout.
“It’s really good to reach our goals, we train for fights, so many years, we’ve run after this for so long and it’s really good to get in there and get a win and represent my team and my coach so well,” Andrade said.
“I hit her with a punch on her stomach and she yelled out and turned around and for a second I thought that the fight could have been over, but she turned around so I said it’s not over and I went in again and kept hitting her and then the referee stopped it,” the 27-year-old added. “It was really fun. I had a really good fight week. All happiness, very happy all over when. I used to fight at 135 and that’s how I used to feel, so it felt good. The girls are bigger, but I’m strong and I can go in there and compete with them.”
In a light heavyweight bout, the Australian Jim Crute defeated Modestas Bukauskas of Lithuania with knockout after 2:01 of round 1, and revealed afterwards that he made sure he repeated his opponent after his win.
“I went to walk away again, and I told myself I would never walk away again, I’m glad I learned from my last mistake,” he said. “I’ve done a lot of soul searching and I’ve realized that this world doesn’t revolve around me and there’s two parties in the Octagon. As much as it feels good for me to win, it feels bad for him to lose, so I just wanted to tell him that I’d see him in the top five one day.”
“I thought he was going to leave more openings to be taken down, but he didn’t and I’m sort of glad that he didn’t,” he said. “The biggest thing for me was to not rush and be confident in my abilities and not get too emotional in there like I’ve done in the past. I had a lot of help from a lot of close people, my two coaches over there, my old man, my mom, my strength and conditioning coach.”
Brazilian Claudio Silva lost to James Krause of the US via a unanimous decision in their welterweight bout, and the winner was delighted with his game plan on the night.
“Obviously, I solved the puzzle, so that’s nice,” Krause said. “I’ve got to go back and watch it, but I felt like the fight went just about how I thought it would. I felt like if I got hold of his body early, that would get him tired, and that up-down early in the first, I knew that would get him tired too. So, honestly the fight went about how I thought it would, I would have liked to come out with a finish, but given my circumstances with the 13, 14 days’ notice, I’ll take the win over the guy that’s never been beaten before.”
In the opening fight of the main card, the American featherweight Jonathan Martinez had beaten Thomas Almeida of Brazil.
I’m a big fan of Almeida, took this fight, my coaches believed in me, so I just went in there and had to get my job done, I’m happy,” the winner said. “It was pretty fun, on my Instagram in 2015, I put, ‘Almeida is going to be a world champion one day’, and I fought him, so it’s pretty good. I started seeing how he was throwing just hooks, straight hook, straight hook. I knew I was going to be a lot faster than him, and I’ve seen a couple of his fights, so I just started throwing my jab more and more.
“I took this fight on eight days’ notice, so I feel good, really good,” Martinez added. “I just want people to know who I am. A lot of people don’t even know who I am, I am here to make statements and climb up the rankings. I just beat Almeida, so hopefully that clicks.
In the prelims, Guram Kutateladze defeated Mateusz Gamrot in a lightweight bout, and revealed afterwards that though he was dedicating the win to his coach, he remained unhappy with his performance.
“When I’m in the cage, everything looks different, but when you look from the side, it looks different, so I have to look over the fight over again together with my team and work on some small details and make some adjustments,” he said.
“Maybe I got too excited about my UFC debut and I took it too much on my nerves, too much excitement and everything.
“[It was] a very cool experience, amazing experience, amazing UFC personnel, Performance Institute crew and all this experience is amazing, I’m never going to forget it,” added Kutateladze.
“Thank you, UFC, and thank you for the opportunity that you gave me. I’m very happy and I really appreciate every minute of it. I’m going to call my parents, my sister, my beautiful girlfriend and our son and just talk to them and enjoy that’s it.”
Earlier, Gillian Robertson overcame Poliana Botelho in a women’s flyweight clash; middleweight Jun Yong Park defeated John Phillips via a unanimous decision; Fares Ziam got yet another unanimous call over Jamie Mullarkey in their lightweight bout; and Maxim Grishin beat Gadzhimurad Antigulov via TKO in round 2 of their light heavyweight fight.
The action at Yas Forum had kicked off with Said Nurmagomedov knocking out Mark Striegl after only 51 seconds of their bantamweight bout.
Fight Island 2 will now conclude next weekend, with unbeaten Russian lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov taking on the American Justin Gaethje in the main event.
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