UFC featherweight Brian Ortega said he didn't even want people to recognize him on Saturday, as he came off a nearly two-year layoff from the Octagon. It's safe to say he succeeded.
Fighting for the first time since he was badly outclassed in a UFC championship fight in late 2018, Ortega (15-1) looked like a new man in a dominant, five-round decision over Chan Sung Jung (16-6). All three judges scored the featherweight bout -- which headlined UFC Fight Night on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates -- a 50-45 shutout for Ortega.
"We're gonna find out if I'm ready," Ortega said about going directly to another title shot. "In this game, you take chances. You don't grow in the comfort zone. Alex Volkanovski, you're the champ. The thought of fighting you is exciting. I've got a team. Ready or not, I'm f---ing coming."
It was an especially rewarding win for Ortega, as he was stopped in the fourth round of his title fight against Holloway at UFC 231. Ortega was scheduled to return against Jung, a.k.a. The Korean Zombie, in late 2019, but was forced to withdraw from the bout due to injury. The lengthy layoff, plus the extensive damage he absorbed in his previous fight, clearly loomed over Ortega as he went into Saturday's contest.
"I was counted out," he said. "I understand, you leave the game for two years, you get counted out. I'm here to remind everyone. It felt great to have this happen again, having your hand raised at this level is important, it's the No. 1 thing."
Ortega will likely have plenty of support going into his second title shot following this performance. The jiu-jitsu black belt chose to stand and trade with Jung, 33, who is regarded as one of the hardest hitters of the featherweight division. Ortega mixed his offense up beautifully, peppering Jung with his jab and leg kicks.
Jung's best moments came in the second round, as he appeared to find his timing and rhythm. Ortega reversed the momentum in the final minute, however, as he hurt Jung with a spectacular counter elbow, reminiscent of the one Yair Rodriguez knocked Jung out with two years ago. Ortega also dropped Jung with a left hand in the opening round and cut Jung over his left eye in the fourth.
Jung, of South Korea, continued to move forward in the fifth and landed several good shots as Ortega danced around the perimeter. But Ortega's defense was on point, and it was the first time in the American fighter's career he had gone five rounds.
"This is the first time I actually stuck to a game plan," Ortega said. "Usually I abort [the] game plan, but we never really had one to begin with, we'd kinda make a semi one up. But this is the first time I've ever had a true game plan, had MMA coaches, not just this coach, that coach.
"I'll do what I have to do -- in this sport you have to take these chances."