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In long-awaited return, will Brian Ortega be higher than ever?

Brian Ortega earned his strategy to a UFC featherweight title combat in December 2018. That’s a reality. No one handed him that chance. He proved himself championship-worthy by profitable six consecutive fights within the UFC.

And on the identical time, Ortega’s loss to then-champion Max Holloway at UFC 231 two years in the past uncovered simply how far he needed to go to turn out to be one of the best on the planet. Ortega was, frankly, fully outclassed in a TKO loss — to the purpose the place Holloway famously began giving him pointers midfight. Ortega went into that night time undefeated and got here out of it with observers questioning if he would ever be the identical.

Since then, Ortega (14-1) has accomplished precisely what you’ll have hoped. He took time to heal and made the very arduous resolution to depart his boxing coach, a mentor who had skilled him since he was a teen in Los Angeles. He went from primarily coaching in a storage by himself to coaching alongside different skilled fighters — together with a few former and present champions.

Saturday’s UFC Fight Night primary occasion in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, will unveil Ortega 2.0. And it would see him face a surging contender in Chan Sung Jung (16-5), who has completed three of his final 4 opponents by knockout inside the primary spherical. It’s an enormous combat for Ortega to come back again to, one in opposition to a viciously expert opponent. And UFC president Dana White already has declared it a No. 1 contender combat.

It’s uncommon to see a fighter come again from a virtually two-year layoff and a dominant loss to a No. 1 contender combat. But that speaks to the weird case of Brian Ortega. Has he shored up the holes that Holloway uncovered, and realized how you can maximize the potential that carried him to a title combat within the first place? Or did that one traumatic night time in opposition to Holloway present his true ceiling?

And is Jung, also referred to as the Korean Zombie, just so good proper now that it will not even matter if Ortega is on level?

It all makes for a really intriguing primary occasion on Fight Island.

By the numbers

679: Days it would have been on combat night time since Ortega final fought. That was a TKO loss to then-champ Max Holloway on Dec. 8, 2018. For Ortega’s final victory, it’s a must to return 959 days — greater than two years and 7 months in the past — to his KO of Frankie Edgar in March of that very same 12 months.

8: Fight night time bonuses awarded by the UFC to Jung, tying him with Cub Swanson for probably the most amongst energetic male featherweights. The Korean Zombie has pocketed $50,00Zero checks for efficiency of the night time (3 times), combat of the night time (twice), submission of the night time (twice) and knockout of the night time (as soon as). Ortega has six bonuses (combat of the night time 4 occasions, efficiency of the night time twice), tying him for fifth place.

6: Finishes by Ortega and Jung, tying them with Charles Oliveira and Conor McGregor for the second most amongst energetic featherweights, 4 behind Holloway.

6: Consecutive primary occasions for Jung, the longest streak in UFC historical past amongst fighters to by no means win a championship. Jung did as soon as problem for a belt, dropping to then-champion Jose Aldo by fourth-round TKO in 2013.

1: Strikes already landed on this rivalry. Score it for Ortega — however not in opposition to Jung. While within the stands at UFC 248 in March, Ortega slapped Jung’s friend Jay Park after taking offense at barbs directed his method by the Korean-American rapper through the buildup to this matchup when it initially was scheduled for final December. Ortega later apologized.

Sources: ESPN Stats & Information and UFC Stats

Five vs. 5

Brian Ortega’s most up-to-date outcomes
Loss: Max Holloway (TKO4, Dec. 8, 2018; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Frankie Edgar (KO1, March 3, 2018; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Cub Swanson (SUB2, Dec. 9, 2017)
Win: Renato Moicano (SUB3, July 29, 2017)
Win: Clay Guida (KO3, June 4, 2016)

Chan Sung Jung’s most up-to-date outcomes
Win: Frankie Edgar (TKO1, Dec. 21, 2019; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Renato Moicano (TKO1, June 22, 2019; watch on ESPN+)
Loss: Yair Rodríguez (KO5, Nov. 10, 2018)
Win: Dennis Bermudez (KO1, Feb. 4, 2017)
Loss: José Aldo (TKO4, Aug. 3, 2013; watch on ESPN+)

And the winner is …

Jung has regarded superb since he returned to motion in 2017 following necessary army service in South Korea. His energy is clearly legit, and he was on the verge of beating Yair Rodriguez in a 25-minute stand-up combat two years in the past earlier than struggling a heartbreaking knockout within the last second (arguably the best knockout in UFC historical past). It’s arduous to go in opposition to Zombie’s momentum proper now, however I can not shake this sense that two years of change goes to make a world of distinction for Ortega. What if his wrestling has improved dramatically? What if his hanging protection has accomplished the identical? I’m purchased in on the thought of an Ortega 2.0. I’m anticipating a back-and-forth aggressive combat, and I’ll go along with Ortega to drag it off by submission, third spherical.

Saturday’s combat card

ESPN+, 7 p.m. ET
Brian Ortega vs. Chan Sung Jung | Men’s featherweight
Katlyn Chookagian vs. Jéssica Andrade | Women’s flyweight
Jimmy Crute vs. Modestas Bukauskas | Light heavyweight
Cláudio Silva vs. James Krause | Welterweight
Thomas Almeida vs. Jonathan Martinez | Men’s featherweight
ESPN+, Four p.m. ET
Mateusz Gamrot vs. Guram Kutateladze | Lightweight
Gillian Robertson vs. Poliana Botelho | Women’s flyweight
John Phillips vs. Jun Yong Park | Middleweight
Jamie Mullarkey vs. Fares Ziam | Lightweight
Gadzhimurad Antigulov vs. Maxim Grishin | Light heavyweight
Mark Striegl vs. Said Nurmagomedov | Men’s bantamweight

How to observe the fights

Watch the fights on ESPN+. If you do not have ESPN+, get it here.

There’s additionally FightCenter, which affords reside updates for each UFC card.

Five extra issues to know (from ESPN Stats & Information)

1. Former UFC strawweight champion Jessica Andrade makes her flyweight debut when she takes on Katlyn Chookagian, who is 2 fights faraway from difficult for the 125-pound title. Andrade will turn out to be simply the second feminine fighter in UFC historical past to combat in three divisions, becoming a member of Valerie Letourneau. Chookagian is No. Three within the ESPN ladies’s flyweight rankings, whereas Andrade is ranked fourth at strawweight. A pair extra fast notables: All seven of Chookagian’s UFC victories have been by resolution, and an Andrade win would put the Brazilian in a tie with one other former 115-pound champ, Joanna Jedrzejczyk, for probably the most victories by a girl in UFC historical past.

2. Jimmy Crute, who faces Modestas Bukauskas at mild heavyweight, landed eight takedowns in his final combat, a first-round submission of Michal Oleksiejczuk in February. According to UFC Stats, that’s the most takedowns ever by a fighter in a first-round end.

3. Claudio Silva places a 14-fight profitable streak on the road when he faces 36-fight veteran welterweight James Krause. Silva is 5-Zero within the UFC, making him considered one of 12 Brazilians to win their first 5 UFC fights.

4. Former KSW light-weight champion Mateusz Gamrot brings a 17-Zero document into his UFC debut in opposition to 11-2 Guram Kutateladze, who can also be making his first Octagon look. Gamrot has the third greatest document on the UFC roster, behind solely Khabib Nurmagomedov (28-0) and Israel Adesanya (20-0).

5. No feminine fighter on the roster has extra submission wins within the UFC than flyweight Gillian Robertson, who picked up her fourth in opposition to Cortney Casey in June. Robertson faces Poliana Botelho, who’s 3-1 within the UFC, together with her solely loss coming to Cynthia Calvillo — by submission.

ESPN’s Jeff Wagenheim contributed to this combat preview.

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