Nobody is really chomping at the bit to fight Jose Aldo. Top contender Hatsu Hioki turned down a chance to compete against him, saying he wanted more time to prepare. Dustin Poirier also said he was going to want a little bit more seasoning before facing Aldo.
Part of that was supposed to come on Tuesday night, when Poirier fought Chan Sung Jung in the main event of UFC on FUEL 3.
That, at least, was the way things seemed to be set up. The 23-year-old Poirier was supposed to win going away, and Jung was there to be a scrappy challenge. A hefty favorite, Poirier was supposed to be too young, too strong and too complete as a fighter for Jung, who is quite affectionately referred to as "The Korean Zombie."
Jung is, at his roots, a brawler. And brawlers can have some success, but it usually ends when they reach top-level opposition with technique at their disposal. But a funny thing happened on his way up the ladder. He refined his own technique. He found a way to meld his own aggression with defensive positioning. And Jung became a contender.
Now, the alterations may take him all the way to a title. Jung didn't just beat Poirier on Tuesday night; he beat him up. He hurt him with uppercuts, flying knees and punches on the ground. He mostly overwhelmed him. And while Poirier fought valiantly, he didn't have an answer for the combination of power and controlled aggression. Finally, in the fourth round, he ate an uppercut that would be the beginning of the end for him, and Jung finished him with a D'arce choke.
"Dustin Poirier is a really tough fighter and I knew that going into the fight, but I wanted to show and I think I did show, that I am tougher," Jung said afterward through his interpreter.
His toughness has never really been in question. He has become a UFC fan favorite in short order in part because of it. But there are many other contributing reasons. Jung is a man with no fear. He's an action fighter. His "Zombie" nickname epitomizes how difficult it is to slow him down. He also seems to have a gentle, introspective side.
For example, though he rarely utters a word of English, through his interpreter, Jung recently noted that after a recent seven-second knockout win over former No. 1 contender Mark Hominick, he had personally wondered if the victory was a simple fluke. It was a nice moment of candidness in a sport full of chest-puffing.
After his win over Poirier, he had no such self-doubt.
"I think that I definitely made a statement about being able to go to the title match," he said. "Honestly, I think if the fight would have gone to a decision, I probably wouldn't have been saying it as definitively, but I think I made a statement."
Now, the UFC will just have to hope he emerged from the battle uninjured. Jung said he hurt his knee somewhere around the middle of the bout, but no update was available about the severity of the issue.
Aldo is locked into a July 21 fight with Erik Koch, but should he emerge victorious, an Aldo-Jung match would be the biggest featherweight fight the UFC has booked since the division was absorbed into the promotion from the WEC.
Though neither Aldo or Jung speak English, they are both ferocious and dynamic and eminently likable, qualities that cross any language barrier.
Told in the post-fight press conference that UFC president Dana White was likely to offer him a future title fight opportunity, Jung let out a big smile and two words that are universal: "Woo-hoo!"
Given his quiet nature, that qualifies as a genuine outburst, proving that even Zombies have emotions. In this case, it just meant that he had his final prey in sight.