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Retro Robbery Review: Leonard Garcia vs. Korean Zombie at WEC 48

Few things infuriate MMA fans more than a fight being scored incorrectly, though the term “robbery” tends to be thrown around carelessly and is often steeped in bias. With Robbery Review, we’ll take a look back at controversial fights and determine whether the judges were rightly criticized for their decision or if pundits need to examine their own knee-jerk reactions.

There was a time when The Korean Zombie was one of MMA’s best kept secrets.

Born Chan Sung Jung, the man we now collectively recognize as the Zombie was just a promising 23-year-old from South Korea with a cool nickname heading into his Zuffa debut at World Extreme Cagefighting 48 on April 24, 2010 in Sacramento, Calif. Jung wasn’t even scheduled for the main card, instead set for the final preliminary bout opposite former and future UFC fighter Leonard Garcia (a replacement for an injured Cub Swanson).

What happened next was one of the 20 best fights in WEC/UFC history. It turned out to be a blessing that Jung and Garcia weren’t on the main card as this was one of the few times the UFC’s sister promotion was on pay-per-view, meaning their clash was free to watch on Spike TV (remember that?). Anyone casually tuning in was treated to an absurdly entertaining bout, one arguably marred by the wrong fighter getting the W.

In this edition of Retro Robbery Review, we look at Garcia’s thrilling clash with Jung and figure out whether Garcia’s infamous brawling style truly earned him a victory or if the judges did a future star dirty.

Thanks to the UFC for uploading this classic fight this week so you can watch along with the video above.

What was the official result?

Leonard Garcia def. Chan Sung Jung via split decision.

How did the fight go?

It went, alright. And pretty much never stopped.

Jung actually came out throwing some nice leg kicks before the bout completely descended into madness. You could see that Garcia was just loading up his right hand (which he would later say he broke during the fight) and after landing a few jabs, he unleashed it. That’s when the bomb-fest began. Jung launched himself at Garcia with a flying knee and with the distance closed they just started swinging and smashing each other with everything they had. It looked like the Zombie was a touch more accurate, but it’s hard to tell.

Outside of a brief clinch against the fence, there was almost no moment in the opening round where they weren’t throwing strikes. Jung continued to push the pace and he dropped Garcia with a winging left. Jung pounced and Garcia defended with an armbar attempt off of his back, but Jung broke free and dropped punches and elbows. Back on the feet, they traded knees, but it was Garcia eating a lot of clean punches. Jung finished the round with a flurry and Garcia had to tie him up to ride out the closing seconds of the round.

Garcia’s jab was effective when he used it, but he couldn’t help but brawl whenever Jung was even vaguely in range. It actually paid off early in Round 2 as he cracked Jung with a big right hand that staggered the Zombie. Soon, they both whiffed on spinning backfists and at that point, everyone involved from the fighters to the fans in attendance to those watching at home were clearly having the time of their lives.

Garcia landed a hard left hook and a straight right to the body and he was doing well until Jung roared back with another flurry. When Garcia lunged at him, the Zombie countered with a stunning back-take. Somehow, despite throwing haymakers for about eight minutes straight at that point, Garcia just exploded back up to his feet. It was unbelievable.

It seemed as though Jung was completely recovered from his earlier stumble as he spent the latter half of Round 2 battering Garcia. The only break occurred when Garcia’s mouthpiece fell out and as soon as it was back in he just charged right at Jung with both hands flying.

In Round 3, Garcia was as busy as ever, but Jung was definitely getting the better of the exchanges with counters and more sustained bursts of offense. Every time Garcia was backed up to the fence, Jung put the hurt on him. Credit to Garcia for staying active even if his efficiency left something to be desired.

Fun stat: Even though Garcia is known as an undisciplined brawler, in 32 pro bouts he never lost by KO/TKO.

Unsurprisingly, Jung and Garcia were firing shots until the final moments of this all-time great fight.

What did the judges say?

Abe Belardo scored it 29-28 Jung.

Nelson Hamilton scored it 29-28 Garcia.

Dan Stell scored it 29-28 Garcia.

All three judges gave Round 1 to Jung and Round 3 to Garcia. Hamilton and Stell both scored the decisive second round for Garcia.

What did the numbers say?

(Statistics per UFC Stats)

Based on significant strikes, this was a win for Jung, who out-struck Garcia 89-64 with the edge in Rounds 1 and 2. Correction: He had a huge edge in Round 1, winning it 39-11 and scoring the lone knockdown of the fight (Round 2 was closer, 27-25 Jung).

Garcia won Round 3 28-23 in significant strikes.

Most of Jung’s strikes landed to the head (62-42) and he also had the advantage in body strikes (18-13). They tied 9-9 in leg strikes.

Neither fighter was credited with a takedown, though Jung scored seven ground strikes in Round 1 after knocking Garcia down.

What did the media say?

Not one of the six media scores on MMA Decisions were in Garcia’s favor with the three scorers on Sherdog.com giving the Zombie all three rounds. Only MMA Weekly scored it a 28-28 draw, presumably giving Jung a 10-8 first round and Garcia the second and third rounds.

What did the people say?

On MMA Decisions, out of 70 fan scorecards, 55.7 percent have 30-27 for Jung. The next three highest results are also in favor of Jung, 29-28 (22.9 percent), 30-28 (7.1 percent), and 30-26 (4.3 percent).

The actual 29-28 Garcia score received 4.3 percent of the vote.

How did I score it?

That’s a 30-27 Jung for me, though the second round was close.

If Angela Hill is the (unfortunate) “Robbery Review Queen,” then Garcia is an archduke at least, though on the other side of the concept. Let’s not forget that two fights later he won an even more heavily criticized split decision agaisnt Nam Phan. Like his former teammate Diego Sanchez, Garcia’s “walk forward at all times and swing until you can’t swing no more” style has a way of obfuscating the action and fooling viewers into believing he’s doing better than he is.

I saw Jung landing a lot of clean counters as the fight went on and you can’t even give Garcia the benefit of “cage control” (ugh) here because the Zombie was pushing the pace as much as Garcia if not more. Outside of getting staggered in the second round, Jung actually showed great defense as the fight went on and he figured out the range. He landed a lot more in my eyes and I even think he did enough to overcome Garcia’s early success in Round 2.

Go down the scoring hierarchy: Effective striking, volume, aggression, all of it favors Jung.

Was it a robbery?

In fairness to the judges, I can’t imagine scoring this one live and though I distinctly recall thinking that the Zombie won, I’m not sure I was all that upset about it at the moment. Heck, I’m not that upset about it now.

The fight put Jung on the map and while he was destined for stardom anyway, how can you not respect Garcia for being an always-willing dance partner? On the flipside, Jung did everything in his power to not leave this one to the judges so this had to be a bitter pill to swallow in his big U.S. debut.

All appreciation for the likes of Garcia and Sanchez aside, this one has to be considered a robbery after giving it a thorough once-over and I would implore anyone who disagrees to dig deep into Round 3 and see just how wide the discrepancy was between how much Garcia threw and how much actually connected.

Luckily for Jung, he was able to get the win back when they rematched in Jung’s very first UFC fight 11 months later. This time, there would be no controversy, as Jung forced Garcia to tap with the first twister submission in UFC history.

The final verdict

Robbery.

Poll

Was Leonard Garcia’s win over The Korean Zombie a robbery?

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  • 93%
    Yes
    (333 votes)
  • 6%
    No
    (24 votes)
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