For the first time in her mixed martial arts career, “Unstoppable” Angela Lee is coming into a bout as the underdog.
At ONE: NEW ERA in Tokyo, Japan, the ONE Strawweight World Champion will leave her natural weight class behind to jump up and face the bigger, stronger Xiong Jing Nan for the ONE Women’s Strawweight World Title.
Her task on 31 March at the Ryogoku Kokugikan is a massive one, but it is not beyond a woman who has proved she can never be counted out.
Here are just some of the ways she can overcome her size disadvantage and take out “The Panda” next month.
The Sweet Spot For Striking
Even Lee may admit she may be outgunned in the boxing department against the punching “Panda.” Though her stand-up skills are always improving, she will be up against a former professional boxer who hits like a ton of bricks.
However, that is not to say the Evolve representative cannot have success on the feet if she picks her battles carefully.
Rather than engaging in a firefight, Lee may have the advantage if she gets in close and clinches up with her rival.
The 22-year-old’s mastery of leverage and position means she can put her opponents in compromising positions – especially against the cage – where they are opened up to knees and elbows.
By taking control of Xiong in his way, she can throw her best shots without testing the durability of her chin against Xiong’s best shots.
Ceaseless Submission Attempts
There is no doubt Xiong’s improving submission defense means she will be wise to the “Unstoppable” submission attempts when she first hits the canvas.
However, Lee has many more years’ experience on the mats as a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, and her skill goes far beyond one-dimensional offensive flourishes on the ground.
The Singaporean can chain together her submission attempts, and use one attack to set up another – just like a boxer uses fakes and feints to set up a knockout blow.
If she can make the Chinese World Champion commit to defending one technique, and then switch things up quickly, she could get the eighth tapout of her career.
No Weight Worry
Though Lee’s body may be best suited for the atomweight division, there may be some advantages to stepping up to strawweight.
If she does not have to watch her diet so carefully to keep her weight down, she will be free to eat all the carbs she wants to stay energized throughout her training camp.
A happy athlete is a successful athlete, and the sensation of feeling fit and strong for weeks ahead of her date with destiny could give her a valuable confidence boost.
Never Say Die
Whenever Lee has faced adversity in the past, she has pulled through to triumph, so if she does run into difficulty, we know she has what it takes to pull through and mount a comeback.
When she was knocked on her back by Mei Yamaguchi in their first match, she came back to win the inaugural ONE Atomweight World Title.
She came into her contest with Istela Nunes suffering from pneumonia, but she still delivered an incredible performance to defend her strap.
And when she was overcome with emotion in her comeback from a life-threatening car accident last May, she bit down on her mouthpiece and stepped up to the plate again.
Xiong may bring some scary skills to the table, but Lee has overcome a lot in the past, and she will be convinced she can do the same in the face of “The Panda’s” best weapons.