MMAOB staff writer Adam Martin takes a deeper look at the main event of UFC on ESPN+ 38, a five-round featherweight bout between The Korean Zombie and Brian Ortega. The event takes place on Saturday, October 17 at Fight Island on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
The Korean Zombie (-175)
The Korean Zombie is the No. 4 ranked featherweight in the UFC. The 33-year-old South Korean has been one of the most exciting fighters in the Octagon for the last decade. After making his UFC debut in 2011, TKZ has gone 6-2 while fighting some of the best in the world at 145lbs. In the UFC alone, TKZ has wins over Dustin Poirier, Frankie Edgar, Renato Moicano, and Dennis Bermudez. His losses came against Jose Aldo due to injury and to Yair Rodriguez in stunning fashion. After returning to the UFC after a mandatory military layoff from 2013 to 2017, TKZ has been on a tear as he’s gone 3-1 with the lone loss the last-second to Rodriguez. TKZ is coming off of back-to-back stoppage wins over Edgar and Moicano as he looks to make a run for the UFC featherweight title. With a win here over Ortega, TKZ may very well get a second chance to fight for gold at 145lbs.
Brian Ortega (+155)
Ortega (14-1, 1 NC) is the No. 2 ranked featherweight in the UFC. The 29-year-old American was unbeaten through the first 15 fights of his career and he picked up stoppage wins over the likes of Frankie Edgar, Cub Swanson, Cub Swanson, and Renato Moicano along the way. Ortega earned a title shot against former featherweight champ Max Holloway in December 2018 but he suffered a vicious one-sided TKO loss and hasn’t fought since then. Before the layoff, Ortega was fighting at an elite level as he showed off both an outstanding ground game to go along with a surprising striking attack. The long layoff is very concerning and makes you wonder how Ortega will perform here after such a long time away from the sport. But if he can bounce back, a win over TKZ would be massive.
Fight Breakdown: I’m excited about this fight between two of the best featherweights in the world. The interesting thing about this fight is that if it was two years ago, I believe most people would have favored Ortega here. But considering he hasn’t fought in nearly two years and TKZ has picked up two fantastic wins since then, I find it hard to go with Ortega in this spot. To me, this looks like a favorable matchup for TKZ. He is the better striker with more power, in my opinion, and Ortega took a lot of damage against Holloway which worries me going forward. Ortega has an amazing ground game and if he gets this fight to the mat he could cause problems, but TKZ has never been submitted before and I don’t see that happening here. Ultimately, I believe TKZ has the edge in both the striking and in the cardio and I see him finishing Ortega with a late-round TKO in this fight.
Prediction: The Korean Zombie wins via TKO