UFC Fight Island 6: Ortega vs Korean Zombie continues the string of events hosted on “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi, this week featuring a bout between Brian Ortega and “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung. Groundwatch is here again to preview the fights for their grappling potential. (Just a clarification, this event is also known as UFC Fight Night 180, or UFC on ESPN+ 38.)
Last week on UFC Fight Island 5, we saw some amazing knockouts (including Joaquin Buckley’s jump spinning reverse kick, and Corey Sandhagen’s spinning heel kick in the main event), but no submission finishes, so no recap highlights to show this time.
So let’s get on to UFC Fight Island 6: Ortega vs Korean Zombie. I will present each fight with my own “Groundwatch Rating” for the event; essentially an overall score of how likely we will see groundwork. To clarify, “groundwork” means things like takedowns, passes, submissions, and so on – the stuff that grappling and jiu-jitsu nerds watch for in UFC events. With that stated, let’s start evaluating the card.
UFC Fight Island 6 Prelims
Said Nurmagomedov vs. Mark Striegl – Bantamweight (135lb)
In case you didn’t know Nurmagomedov is not actually related to Khabib, though he does also hail from Dagestan. Nurmagomedov has mostly looked for his kicks to wear down his opponents and gain decision victories, though he has a solid wrestling game like most Dagestani fighters.
Striegl is making his UFC debut, and is a grappling and submission artist from the Philippines. He will attempt to wrestle his foes to the ground and work his control and submission game. Which sounds fun right? Well, not so fast…
Striegl’s wrestling is not a good matchup against Nurmagomedov, a solid wrestler with good kicking game. It doesn’t appear that Striegl is good enough to force his game here – it’s more likely that he simply gets picked apart with leg and body kicks by Nurmagomedov. So that lowers this fight to a 2/5.
Maxim Grishin vs. Gadzhimurad Antigulov – Light Heavyweight (205lb)
Grishin is a hard fighter to describe. There aren’t a lot of strengths to point to, but the veteran has somehow amassed 30 pro wins over his career. If I had to point to one strength, I suppose it’s his striking and durability, though he has an incredibly low volume and I’m not sure his power translates well to the UFC.
Antigulov is a fun submission artist that can get the tap if he can impose his game on his opponent quickly. He has 15 submission wins in his pro history and won his first three UFC fights this way. He’s lost his last three though, showing perhaps he has a limited ceiling when it comes to imposing his game in the UFC. Which brings up the next problem with Antigulov – almost all of his wins come early in the first round. The fact that he’s going to blitz his opponent both leaves him vulnerable to KOs, counterstriking, and even getting himself submitted (like in his last fight where Paul Craig put him into a triangle choke). So though he wants to get a submission, it’s not necessarily likely.
The good news here (for Groundwatch) is that Grishin is a weak wrestler. The bad news is, Grishin might just need to survive the first round and coast to a victory. I’m currently seeing him as a -370 favorite, so it seems most think this will happen. So, to sum it up, this is only a 3/5 for the chance that Antigulov gets something going. There is also a chance that Antigulov tires himself out quickly and Grishin can’t put him away, resulting in a very boring fight. At the very least, the first round should be interesting.
Jamie Mullarkey vs. Fares Ziam – Lightweight (155lb)
Mullarkey is a striker but has some overall game, though he was picked apart by Brad Riddell in his first UFC fight. He did manage some takedowns but was not able to keep Riddell down.
Ziam has a kickboxing background and like Mullarkey, is still developing his game. He has mostly shown a penchant for clinch fighting, but has also shot some takedowns.
Both are not known as great prospects. Hard to predict at these lower levels with limited data, but I don’t expect much jiu jitsu occurring here: 2/5 just because I’m not sure with the limited info on either fighter.
Jun Yong Park vs. John Phillips – Middleweight (185lb)
This fight pits an aggressive brawler in Phillips versus Park, a technical counterstriker who can also use some wrestling to aid his game. Phillips will be looking for a KO finish but is susceptible to being dismantled by a patient fighter, and is also prone to getting taken down and submitted. The matchup favors “The Iron Turtle” (Park), who may want to take the fight to the ground to help finish off Phillips: 2/5.
Gillian Robertson vs. Poliana Botelho – Women’s Flyweight (125lb)
Robertson is an exciting grappler, with six of her eight pro wins coming from a submission finish. Her last fight in June ended with a rear naked choke over Cortney Casey (see the video below). She has finished mostly with rear naked chokes, but also has a few armbar wins. Robertson’s striking is not strong so she will likely be working her wrestling to take Botelho down.
Botelho has some power to her punches and kicks and a bigger frame than Robertson. She may try to use her reach to keep Robertson at bay. Botelho also has a takedown defense rate of 88% so far in the UFC, so she may be hard to force down. Even though she has a solid ground game, Botelho is somewhat notorious for overrating her grappling and has gotten herself caught in submissions in previous fights. That fact along with Robertson being a betting favorite rates this high on the Groundwatch scale: 4/5.
Ground game on point! 🤼♀️@Savage_UFC puts the finishing touch on a dominant performance.
— UFC (@ufc) June 20, 2020
Mateusz Gamrot vs. Guram Kutateladze – Lightweight (155lb)
Gamrot is making his UFC debut but comes with a good pedigree as a KSW title holder. The Polish fighter is undefeated and has used a mix of striking, wrestling, and grappling to get his victories. (Interestingly Gamrot was able to pull off an Americana submission finish against Grzegorz Szulakowski in 2018.)
He will face Georgian Guram Kutateladze, another newcomer to the UFC. Kutateladze is mostly a striker and will surely look to keep the fight standing and stay away from Gamrot’s wrestling.
I think this fight goes late with neither fighter seemingly possessing a ton of KO power. That should favor Gamrot as he is the better overall fighter and should have a good chance to get this fight to the mat: 3/5.
UFC Fight Island 6 Main Card
Thomas Almeida vs. Jonathan Martinez – Featherweight (145lb)
Almeida is a high paced volume striker with a penchant to drop his defense and force the exchange. Martinez is another striker with great durability and modest power. This is a somewhat interesting striking matchup, but very unlikely to go to the ground: 0/5.
James Krause vs. Claudio Henrique da Silva – Welterweight (170lb)
Krause is known as the head coach at Glory MMA in Kansas City. He’s well rounded, very technical, has some power, and wrestling skills. Krause will probably be working his stand-up game, as he has better striking than Silva, plus a modest reach advantage.
Silva uses his striking and wrestling to score takedowns and control his opponents, finishing with submissions. He has nine submission wins in his pro history, most often working for the back and getting a rear naked choke but also has several armbar wins, including a controversial win over Danny Roberts in 2019 (see below). Silva has a likely strength advantage and will want to continue his strategy here.
This fight has a very good certainty of going to the ground, so the question will be can Silva outgrapple Krause? It seems that Krause might be good enough to avoid being dominated by Silva and return the fight to a standing match, but it will be interesting to watch: 4/5.
A WILD FINISH!
Make it 1️⃣3️⃣ straight victories for Cláudio Silva!
— UFC (@ufc) March 16, 2019
Jimmy Crute vs. Modestas Bukauskas – Light Heavyweight (205lb)
Bukauskas is still a somewhat raw prospect, but his game so far has been ranged striking and clinch work. Bukauskas has shown himself to be susceptible to grappling, getting taken down in previous fights but not in his limited UFC action.
Crute’s nickname “The Brute” is apt, as he tends to rush forward aggressively and haphazardly towards his opponents, working for takedowns and finishing with strikes or submissions. This risky approach has generally worked for Crute so far, including his last fight in February where he submitted Michal Oleksiejczuk with a Kimura (see below). Because it has a decent chance to work here again I’m rating this a 4/5.
— UFC Canada (@UFC_CA) February 23, 2020
Katlyn Chookagian vs. Jessica Andrade – Women’s Flyweight (125lb)
Chookagian came into the UFC as a kickboxer and rode that skillset to a number of decision victories, but her skills seemed to have a ceiling as she ran into more athletic opponents like Valentina Shevchenko. So it was interesting to “Blonde fighter” add some grappling to her game as she used takedowns and jiu jitsu to win her last fight in May versus the “lesser” Shevchenko sister (Antonina). Chookagian’s training at Renzo Gracie Academy in New York (home of John Danaher) seems to have paid off in that regard.
This leads to an interesting matchup with Jessica Andrade. “Bate Estaca” has used her physicality to bully other fighters in her previous fights, but ran into a wall with Weili Zhang and Rose Namajunas both picking her apart. After realizing that she probably can’t try again for a title at 115 pounds, she decided to move up to 125. But how will her physicality transfer at a bigger division?
A decent chance for wrestling and ground work in this fight: 3/5.
UFC Fight Island 6 Main Event
Brian Ortega vs. Chan Sung Jung – Featherweight (145lb)
This is an exciting matchup overall, as both fighters have multi-dimensional games. Both have worked to improve their striking tremendously over the years. Both also bring elite grappling to the octagon – the Rener Gracie product Ortega has 7 submission wins over the course of his career, and “The Korean Zombie” dominated Frankie Edgar on the ground, among other things. Another aspect both fighters have is durability, which likely means this fight goes deep into the later rounds.
With Ortega, there are some questions. He hasn’t fought in nearly two years. Does he still have the durability? Has he improved his striking more in that time? (Though it has improved, it was still nowhere near a Max Halloway level, as Halloway tore Ortega apart two years ago.) Another issue is missing his grappling corner coach Rener Gracie, as Rener was forced to stay home after testing positive for COVID.
If Ortega still has his chin, Zombie will need to pick his spots for aggression, as Ortega hits hard as a counterstriker and always is dangerous as a submission threat. (Zombie will be hard to outgrapple though!) If Zombie stays back and is disciplined with his footwork, he probably has a good striking advantage and may force Ortega into a mistake.
This is a great fight to finish the card (chef’s kiss on finally making this happen – we’ve been excited for a long time). I like the potential to go long and that helps up the grappling quotient. Because both are elite grapplers it will be interesting to see if anything happens on the ground – probably a 3/5 here because I think the grappling may cancel out and not be a method of finishing for either fighter. That said, Korean Zombie has never been submitted in his career – but if anyone can, it’s Ortega.
UFC Fight Island 6: Ortega vs Korean Zombie Overall Card Rating
UFC Fight Island 6: Ortega vs Korean Zombie is a great card overall. There are chances throughout the card to see high level grappling and a fantastic finish between two exciting fighters. Nice job, UFC: 4/5.