The Totally Normal, Not Weird At All Guide to Ortega vs. Korean Zombie

These are UFC fights at Yas Island in Abu Dhabi tomorrow. Watch them if you dare.

Tired: Putting energy and thought into an introduction that will endear the readers to you and motivate them to continue reading the sub-par, but well-meaning content that you took an embarrassing amount of time to produce.

Wired: Not doing any of that and using a meme format that was successful for about five minutes like eight months ago instead.

via GIPHY

OK, well, there are UFC fights at Yas Island in Abu Dhabi tomorrow. I wrote some thoughts on a few of them. Read it, or don’t, just please don’t tell mother that I’ve been emotionally unraveling on the internet again.

Don’t blink (or maybe do, it’s just healthier)

Have you ever felt so strongly about being really good at a thing that you were just like, “You know what, I’m just going to train myself to stop blinking so I can be really good at this thing”?

No?

Well, good, because that doesn’t seem like a thing a normal person would do. It is, however, apparently a thing that “The Korean Zombie” has done. And, just like that, what would have probably sounded like a low-key made-up technique coming from anyone else is now both entirely reasonable and thoroughly delightful.

Such is the power of the Zombie.

See, when talking about the building of stars in MMA, there are often a few obvious factors we can point to. A knockout-heavy style is, of course, always a great start. Having some personal style doesn’t hurt. Knowing how to land a one-liner is always useful. A whimsical nickname, a snazzy beard, a heartwarming backstory — what I’m saying is, there are multiple avenues into our hearts.

But the thing is, none of it is a guarantee. You can have all the good stuff on paper, but there is more that goes into it. There is something… Extra. The “it” factor, if you may. Fads come and go, but a true fan-favorite is the one who can win, lose, or go away for years and still show up in our Twitter polls and pointless hypothetical arguments. They’re the ones who, for reasons we can’t always explain or understand ourselves, we just gravitate toward.

I could try to answer why exactly The Korean Zombie is one of these people, but instead I ask that you look into his eyes and answer… How could he not be?

 

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Zombie! Zombie! Zombie! 🧟‍♂️ @KoreanZombieMMA locks in Saturday’s main event! [ #UFCFightIsland6 – LIVE on #ESPNPlus ]

A post shared by ufc (@ufc) on

If the eyes didn’t do it for you, maybe his record will help. Since losing a title bid to Jose Aldo back in 2013, with a three-year layoff in between, Chan Sung Jung has only lost exactly once — courtesy of that wild Yair Rodriguez elbow in the literal last second of a five-round banger that Jung was on his way to winning. He comes into Saturday’s main event against Brian Ortega off wins over Renato Moicano and Frankie Edgar, both first-round knockouts.

Also, have I mentioned he’s just absolutely delightful?

Getting to watch the Zombie is in itself a privilege that we are not worthy of as a species, but in what is likely an effort to make up for the sadness and murder hornets, we’re getting an extra treat with this pairing.

While our most recent memories of Ortega are of him getting his entire face broken by Max Holloway two years ago, it’s worth noting that he not only had won every single one of his previous fights, but earned post-fight bonuses in four of them. The Uncrowned King of Winning Fights He Was Otherwise Really Losing, Ortega even pocketed a “Fight of the Night” bonus for the Holloway affair — which, for better or worse, served as a reminder of his superhuman abilities to both withstand insane punishment and heal from it.

As someone who has never had her entire face broken by a pair of human fists, it’s hard to even imagine where Ortega’s mind is at as he prepares to expose said face to another pair of human fists. On paper, though, this seems like yet another golden opportunity for these lovable psychos to collect bonuses and for us less lovable psychos to examine why we encourage this kind of behavior.

Also, speaking of delightful.

Ciryl Gane is back!

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May this serve as a tough, but necessary reminder that this is heavyweight MMA and we are not allowed to have nice things.

It’s not like 2020 has been kind to anyone who doesn’t hoard shameful amounts of wealth based on tax maneuvers and the exploitation of the working class, but I am still pouring one out for Ciryl Gane and his extra cursed year. After a collapsed lung forced him out of UFC 249 back in April, Gane had another two scheduled fights fall through before finally landing on Ante Delija. That was, of course, until this very Wednesday, when contract issues forced Delija out of the card and caused the night’s original co-main to be scrapped.

As a well-known beacon of hope and positivity, though, I say we focus on the bright side and think of the “Hey There Delija” puns I will no longer get to make.

*This was actually Gane’s second time dealing with a collapsed lung, which I would argue is about two collapsed lungs too many.

Also, I’m not mad at the new co-main 

Argument: Former 115-pound champion Jessica Andrade is coming off two consecutive losses and therefore it was fair that her flyweight fight with ex-title-challenger Katlyn Chookagian, herself on a recent 1-1 run, wasn’t originally picked as the co-headliner.

Counter-argument: Andrade is all that is good and pure in this godforsaken planet and therefore deserves all the nice things — including, but not limited to, our unbridled support and prime spots in every UFC card forever.

 

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Olá meu povo querido e amado!!! Essas são Banguela 😺 e Petica 🐶 Ambas foram adotadas na rua em situações diferentes, Petica foi atropelada a 2 anos em frente minha casa, e o covarde que a atropelou fugiu sem prestar socorro, ouvimos o choro e fomos socorrer, levamos ela ao hospital veterinário quase sem vida, passou por 3 cirurgias sofreu muito mas no final ganhou uma família, e a Banguela em uma de nossas viagens para Minas deixamos o carro para arrumar em uma oficina e quando fomos buscar encontramos na rua ela e seus irmãozinhos muito pequenos brigando porque estavam dividindo um grilo para comer, imediatamente paramos pegamos ela e arrumamos donos para os demais filhotes! Hoje as suas são as irmãs e companheiras! Não existe barreiras para o amor ❤️ . . Hello my beloved and beloved people !!! These are Banguela 😺 and Petica 🐶 Both were adopted on the street in different situations, Petica was run over 2 years in front of my house, and the coward who ran her down escaped without help, we heard the cry and we went to rescue, we took her to the veterinary hospital almost lifeless, went through 3 surgeries suffered a lot but in the end won a family, and Banguela on one of our trips to Minas we left the car to tidy in a workshop and when we went to find we found in the street she and her very small brothers fighting because they were sharing a cricket to eat, we immediately stopped and took the owners out for the other puppies! Today yours are the sisters and companions! There are no barriers to love.❤️ . #filhasdequatropatas #gata #cachorro #amor #felicidade #gratidão #minhasfilhas #minhavida

A post shared by Jessica Andrade “Bate Estaca” (@jessicammapro) on

If those very objective and indisputable facts weren’t enough to convince you, though, here are some equally objective, if way less riveting facts.

After joining the UFC as a five-foot-one bantamweight, Andrade made the 20-pound drop to strawweight in 2016. Then mostly dismissed as a powerful — but unrefined — fighter, she went on a three-fight streak before guaranteeing an unlikely title shot against Stuff of Nightmares Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Despite managing the feat of keeping her recognizable facial features, Andrade lost a clear decision before going on to build another three-fight streak on her way to another title shot. This time, against Rose Namajunas, Andrade won.

Andrade’s reign didn’t last long; she lost her first defense to Weili Zhang, who knocked her out in 42 seconds before going on to win a war for the ages against Jedrzejczyk. Andrade followed that up with a split-decision loss to Namajunas, but scored a “Fight of the Night” bonus and hopefully taught a lesson to the uneducated heathens who labeled her first win a fluke.

At 29, Andrade is set to become the first woman in the UFC to compete in three different divisions. A win here may very well stamp her ticket to a third title shot, this time at flyweight. Despite being consistently dismissed as little more than a power puncher with a big slam, Andrade has continued to put on damn good performances, against damn good fighters, in multiple weight classes.

So you can see while I get just a tad protective when I so much as catch a faint whiff of Andrade disrespect.

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Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Funny of you to talk about disrespect when you’ve just spent several paragraphs ranting about Andrade and some perceived cosmic injustice while completely ignoring her actual opponent.” To which I’d argue that “Yeah, so?” but I won’t because I have employers.

Also, I was getting there.

Here’s the thing about Chookagian: She is very good at fighting. More specifically, she is very good at the particular skill of winning fights, which instinctively seems like a thing most good fighters should be good at but, alas, Michael Johnson. That means Chookagian will rarely be caught doing something stupid or reckless, which might not always be good for our collective bloodlust, but is generally good for her professional record and internal organ disposition. She fights long, she fights smart, and she can make things incredibly frustrating for pretty much anyone not named Valentina Shevchenko.

Just ask the other Shevchenko, Antonina, who can fly planes and shoot guns and probably help topple illegitimate governments but just couldn’t keep herself from repeatedly landing under Chookagian last May.

What this particular set of skills will mean against a shorter and meaner opponent with no regard for the concept of personal space is what makes this match-up intriguing. Probably. Who cares. I’m just here for the hairstyles.


You do you, Jimmy

As someone who doesn’t quite know how the outdoors work, has never so much as successfully unclogged a toilet and suffers from a general inability to handle any type of uncertainty, adversity or mild discomfort, I’d never really thought of #VanLife as something I could personally aspire to.

But then I heard Australian light heavyweight Jimmy Crute, who fights Modestas Bukauskas in the main card, talking about his own experience sharing a van with his dog in Melbourne (video via mmajunkie)

“I fucking hate paying bills. I hate paying rent. It’s something I wanted to do even before I got signed. I just liked the idea of van life and whatever. I was able to buy a van. I was able to pick it out myself, I was able to put running water, solar power. I’ve done everything myself on it, it’s just a little project I have. And, you know what, I don’t really care what normal is. I don’t give a fuck what people think about me. So I just do what I want to do and, yeah, if it works for me, it works for me.”

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Unfortunately, he lost me at “I’ve done everything myself.” For a few seconds there, though, I did allow myself to wonder about the marvelous ways in which different circumstances — such as a different body, brain, and basic set of personality traits — could have led me on a different life path.

Some perspective

Covering MMA for a living means constantly learning all the horrifying ways in which otherwise exceptional human bodies can suddenly twist, tear, snap, break, and just generally be total assholes to the people living inside of them.

Imagine having a job that is entirely reliant on almost every single one of your muscles, joints and tendons, only to find out that something, somehow, went somewhere it wasn’t supposed to go and that now it might be months — years, even — before you get to do it again. Imagine going from perpetual motion to sudden, unceremonious suspension — of your limbs, of your income, of your stress outlets, of your career prospects. Almost every fighter story is also a recovery story, and they’re often heartbreaking. Few, however, have stuck with me quite as much as Claudio “Hannibal” Silva’s.

That had less to do with the nature of the injuries (two broken feet), but the toll that the time away had clearly taken on him. Silva, then two fights into his UFC career, wasn’t just sad; he was angry. He compared his recovery to being in a prison, and said he got so traumatized by the process that when he had another injury, this time on his bicep tendon, he ran — as in physically bolted — from the hospital in order to escape surgery.

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Thankfully, Silva did recover, coming back with a first-round submission win over Nordine Taleb. And while he did suffer another injury, he went on to rack up another pair of submissions to add to his still-undefeated UFC record. After having two opponents fall out of scheduled bouts, he now faces James Krause in the main card of Saturday’s Fight Island event.

I would talk more about Krause, but I’m afraid that if I say his name three times he might just show up here trying to last-minute fight me.

As you may recall, Krause is the crazy person lightweight/welterweight who agreed to step in to fight a middleweight on less than 24-hours notice at UFC 247 in Houston. Krause ended up dropping a Controversial Split Decision,™ but walked away with a 50,000 dollar bonus, a renegotiated four-fight contract and our respect, which isn’t much but is what we can afford right now.

It’s always the quiet ones

Now, kids, you might not believe this.

But once upon a time, back when humans still walked around with exposed breathing holes and a willfully ignorant belief in the power of western democracy, tales abounded of a terrifying creature that roamed the land.

With a mere 135 pounds of mass, distributed throughout a startlingly human-like five-foot-seven frame, the creature’s appearance was deceiving. Its speech, smooth and well-mannered, was beguiling. You couldn’t possibly tell, just by looking at it, the amount of force that the creature could generate. You couldn’t know, just by hearing it, the amount of damage that it could cause. All the violence (oh, the violence!) hidden behind those impossibly serene eyes.

That creature was called Thomas Almeida. And now, after an almost three-year slumber, it has been awakened.

via GIPHY

It hasn’t been the easiest stretch for “Thominhas,” who was on a two-fight skid before a detached retina forced him out of competition. All in all, he needed two surgeries and a laser procedure in the eye. Then, just as the Brazilian headed to the UFC’s Performance Institute to finally prepare for a return, this pesky little global health crisis hit. Almeida finally got an opponent in Alejandro Perez, but it couldn’t be that simple, could it? The week before the fight, as he made his way to Fight Island, Perez tested positive for COVID.

Seriously, you can’t make that up.

Thankfully, Alejandro seems to be doing just fine, and Almeida’s trip wasn’t wasted. He was rescheduled for the following week, against Jonathan Martinez, whom he meets in a main card bantamweight bout this Saturday.

Now, I can’t say I know a whole lot about Martinez, other than the fact that he’s 3-2 in the UFC and earned a “Performance of The Night” bonus for this.

Martinez also apparently has an extensive street fight record, and the fact that he looked as comfortable as someone who just accidentally made eye contact with an acquaintance in public transportation when asked about it by the media makes me think that he was good at it. Like, alarmingly so. As a general rule, I find the huge traps + neck tattoos combo a lot less intimidating than a quiet-looking 135-pounder who just smiles timidly when speaking of his long history of picking fights with bigger, tough-looking men “just ‘cause.”

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