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3 potential fights for Korean Zombie’s return

FILE - In this Aug. 4, 2013 file photo, Jose Aldo, from Brazil, right, and Chan Sung Jung, from South Korea, battle during their mixed martial arts Featherweight Championship bout in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. With a year of exquisite taunts and verbal roundhouses, Conor McGregor has dominated the promotion of his wildly anticipated UFC showdown with Aldo. Getting into the cage and ending Aldo's 10-year winning streak at UFC 194 will be another matter entirely. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana,File)
(AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

It’s time to unravel the South Korean flags, dust off the tattered zombie shirts and ready the mixed martial arts mantel for a reunion two years in the making. Chan Sung Jung, better known by his easily accepted moniker “Korean Zombie,” is officially on his way back to the UFC Octagon after serving two years of mandatory military service in his home country.

While many fans from this Conor McGregor era may not know who “Korean Zombie” is, other MMA enthusiasts remember his chilling antics during the early days of the UFC featherweight division. Jung not only has a seven-second knockout and twister submission finish under his promotional belt, but he has tangoed with the best of the best at 145 pounds before, valiantly losing to Jose Aldo at UFC 163. That 2013 championship bout was the last time the South Korean stepped inside of the cage.

As Jung readies himself for a long-awaited UFC return, the MMA world can’t help but wonder what’s in store for a 29-year-old rebounding brawler in the expanding 145-pound division. Let’s take at a look at three possible options for “Korean Zombie” as he aims to impress in his comeback.

B.J. Penn

Jung has already called out MMA legend B.J. Penn, so half the work is done. Remember, Penn has been trying to make his UFC comeback after coming out of retirement earlier this year, but injuries, suspensions and legal troubles have helped slow the return of “The Prodigy.”

Still, all indications point to Penn one day getting back into the Octagon. And if Jung had an ounce of self worth in him, which he does, he’ll do everything in his power to lock down the most high-profile bout of his career outside of his title fight with Aldo. At the end of the day, Jung would presumably be able to overwhelm Penn on the feet, rely on his transitions and natural strength on the ground, and have enough gas in the tank to threaten in the later rounds.

It’s a borderline gimme fight for “Korean Zombie” as he quickly tries to reassimilate himself into the thick of the 145-pound title picture.

Yair Rodriguez

Nobody wants to face Yair Rodriguez right now. The 24-year-old striking sensation is capable of knocking out almost anyone in the division today, yet isn’t even well known among the casual masses. That’s a deadly combination, especially for a veteran looking to standout in a McGregor-driven division.

But, that doesn’t mean someone isn’t going to try to end Rodriguez’s transcendent rise, halt the superstar talks and use the momentum of a young prospect to reestablish their own title worth. In enters Jung, who was quick to end Dustin Poirier’s featherweight rise back in 2012 after “The Diamond” started his UFC career 4-0.

If there was anyone in the 145-pound class right now capable of standing in front of Rodriguez and walking through each one of his wild attacks, it would be “Korean Zombie.” Just imagine Rodriguez’s switchblade techniques against the indestructible core of Jung. Match made in heaven.

Renan Barao

Out of the three options on this list, a matchup with former UFC bantamweight champion Renan Barao seems like the most likely scenario for Jung at this point in time. After all, Barao is sort of in the same position as “Korean Zombie,”as he is also seeking vindication after a fall from grace.

Luckily for Jung, Barao is the type of fighter to stay on a straight line and unload heavy offense. He may be one of the more athletically-gifted strikers on the featherweight roster, but Barao isn’t going to dish out anything “Korean Zombie” hasn’t seen before.

While Barao is only ranked No. 14 in the division, he still carries enough weight from his days as the 135-pound king. Taking someone like Barao out in devastating fashion would immediately propel “Korean Zombie” to the doorstep of the featherweight elite. A win over the Brazilian may even be more impressive than a victory over Rodriguez, given Barao’s big-fight experience.

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