Last-second KO still haunts Chan Sung Jung ahead of UFC Greenville

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist
Chan Sung Jung, shown here prior to facing Yair Rodriguez on Nov. 10, 2018 in Denver, won't forgive himself for his last-second loss. (Getty Images)

For four-plus rounds, 24 minutes and 48 seconds, Yair Rodriguez and Chan Sung Jung, aka “The Korean Zombie,” put on an epic battle that reminded so many why they love the fight game. It was one of the greatest fights in UFC history, even without those fateful final 12 seconds.

But with 12 seconds left on the clock, the two men, from different countries and different cultures and differing sensibilities, realized at the same time they’d done something special.

Each man raised his arms skyward in anticipation of a significant victory. They stopped and tapped gloves with 10 seconds and smiled at each other until they were admonished by referee Kevin McDonald to keep fighting.

It was, to that point, the fight game as thrilling and enthralling as it could be.

When McDonald urged them to keep going, Jung, as is his wont, moved forward. Jung threw a left that wasn’t really important, and Rodriguez ducked underneath it. But Rodriguez came up and threw out his right elbow. It hit Jung on the chin and knocked him cold, giving Rodriguez the win in what UFC president Dana White would call the craziest finish ever.

The bout ended at 4:59 of the fifth round or, to put it another way, with one second left in the 25-minute bout.

The crowd roared in appreciation, though a hush soon fell over the crowd as it was concerned for Jung’s safety. He later walked from the cage under his own power and was transported by ambulance to a local hospital where he checked out OK.

But he couldn’t remember that elbow until he saw it on video later.

He’ll fight Renato Moicano on Saturday in Greenville, South Carolina, in the main event of UFC on ESPN+ 12. Eight months later, his feelings about the finish haven’t changed.

Multiple times during a brief interview with Yahoo Sports, Jung said he was embarrassed and ashamed by the defeat. When it was suggested to him that it was such a great fight that he had nothing to be ashamed of, he wouldn’t accept it.

“I’m real embarrassed about how I lost, as an athlete,” Jung said through an interpreter. “I’m ashamed at how it ended. Although it was a fantastic fight, I’m shocked at the result. As an athlete, as a sports athlete, it matters if you lose or if you win. The result really matters.”

Even acknowledging that results matter — and combined with a 2013 loss to Jose Aldo, Jung has lost two of his last three — he and Rodriguez put on a display of heart, courage and toughness few will ever forget.

Jung has been one of the most exciting fighters in the world since he debuted in North America at WEC 48 on April 24, 2010, by losing a Fight of the Night battle to Leonard Garcia. In his eight UFC/WEC fights, Jung has won Fight of the Night three times, Submission of the Night twice and Knockout of the Night and Performance of the Night once.

He’s one of those guys on the roster who is a can’t miss. Fight fans stop what they’re doing and change plans if they have to when he’s on the show.

The only negative is his inactivity. He’s fought eight times in nine years with UFC/WEC, with injuries and a stint in the South Korean military conspired to make him one of the UFC’s least active fighters.

He said that his ideal schedule would be two fights a year or five over a two-year period.

“If it weren’t for the geographic limitations, I’d like to fight three times a year, but being in Korea, I usually have to travel great distances for my fights,” he said.

Moicano is the No. 5 ranked featherweight and Jung 12th, so a win would be significant for him. He is confident of victory, but made no promises.

He didn’t have to promise to make it an entertaining fight. That’s one thing he is all but guaranteed to do whenever he shows up.

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