I'd be curious to know if Dustin Poirier was walking into his UFC on FUEL 3 main event matchup with Chan Sung Jung with just a hint of doubt about what to expect. Jung, after all, has said he is in the midst of a major stylistic overhaul. Out is the wild, brawling madman that gained fame as "The Korean Zombie," and in is a more technical and refined fighter.
At least that's according to him. While this change is over one year in the making, we haven't really seen enough of Jung since then to make any real determinations on if he'll revert to old habits when aggressively pressed.
During that time, he's fought just twice. The first was a rematch of his epic April 2010 matchup with Leonard Garcia. In that one, he did show an interest in defense, as Garcia connected on only 16 of 88 strikes -- just 18 percent. Then again, Garcia isn't exactly known as an accurate striker, landing just 26 percent in 14 fights tracked by FightMetric.
In his next fight, Jung knocked out Mark Hominick in just seven seconds, an impressive performance but not one with any real value for analysis purposes.
Faced with little information, Poirier (12-1) can expect the fight to go in any number of ways.
Both men at their cores are power strikers, at least when it comes to style. A southpaw, Poirier will have a nominal one-inch reach advantage. A confident striker, he will often take the center of the cage and establish himself as the leader of the fight's pace.
Poirier is a remarkably balanced fighter altogether. Among his wins, he has five knockouts and five submissions. He has decent wrestling, with a 54 percent takedown success rate, and a 77 percent rate of stopping opponent's takedown tries. He appears equally comfortable in all facets of the game.
Of the two featherweight contenders, Poirier is much more likely to take the fight to the mat. He's shown his evolution as a fighter in this regard. In his first three fights under the Zuffa banner, he didn't try a single takedown. Since then, he's tried 11 attempts in four fights, landing six. By comparison, in Jung's four fights under the Zuffa banner, he's only tried two takedowns.
One clue that Jung (12-3) has indeed made a key adjustment did come in his rematch with Garcia. At one point towards the end of the first round, Garcia tried to turn the match into a brawl, coming forward with a barrage of punches. Instead of standing and trading as he's done in the past, Jung went for and delivered a takedown, dominating the ground battle for the rest of the round.
It will be interesting to see how this translates into a fight with Poirier. He is not a swarmer like Garcia, but rather looks for combinations that emphasize his accuracy (he lands at a 51 percent clip).
That means Jung may be content countering him from the outside, or he might attempt to mix things up with a takedown. Poirier, though, is very difficult to put down. Even wrestler Danny Castillo struggled with him, successful on just three of 11 tries back in their August 2010 match.
Even if you get Poirier on the mat, he's no slouch there, and he probably has the edge over Jung despite the Korean being the first and only man in UFC history to pull off a twister submission.
Poirier is also physically stronger than most 145-pounders, and I would venture to guess that holds true against Jung. In 50/50 positions like the clinch, expect Poirier to outwork him. On the ground, he should also find success as a result.
Poirier's balanced approach and physical advantage offers him an edge in this fight. In exchanges, he's probably the heavier puncher and he's statistically the more accurate one. He also gets hit less. Those numbers mean something.
Truthfully, it's hard to envision a clear route to victory for Jung. Unless Poirier sits back and lets Jung dictate the pace -- and that's never been his style -- he should be the one scoring more frequently. He also has never shown signs that he can be broken, so if the fight does find an insane pace, he should still be OK. His accurate strikes should find a home early and often, wearing Jung down over the first two rounds before finishing it in the third, taking it via TKO.