Long before the strawweights were booked to meet in a mixed martial arts contest at ONE: MASTERS OF DESTINY this Friday, 12 July in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the Brazilian defeated the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion in a grappling match.
They faced off even before they became training partners at Singapore’s famous Evolve gym when The world’s largest martial arts organization hosted a grappling tournament to coincide with ONE: HEROES OF THE WORLD in Macao in August 2016.
The Angela Lee-Michelle Nicolini rivalry comes to a head in an epic strawweight showdown on 12 July! ????: Kuala Lumpur | 12 July | 6PM | ONE: MASTERS OF DESTINY????: Get your tickets at ???? http://bit.ly/onemastersofdestiny19????: Check local listings for global TV broadcast????: Watch on the ONE Super App ???? http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp ????????: Prelims LIVE on Facebook | Prelims + 2 Main-Card bouts LIVE on Twitter
Posted by ONE Championship on Thursday, July 4, 2019
The event featured a no-gi match between the legendary black belt and “Unstoppable” – then a brown belt, but already unbeaten at 6-0 in the ONE Circle, and just a few months removed from her defeat of Mei “V.V.” Yamaguchi to become World Champion.
At that time, Nicolini was just 2-1 in her new sport, but her skill in a pure grappling scenario was almost without compare, and it took her little more than three minutes to force Lee to tap.
There is an argument that fans cannot read too much into this encounter – it was contested under different rules, and both athletes have had a long time to improve their skills.
However, a close look at the footage can teach us some subtle lessons about what we might be able to expect when these rivals meet again at the Axiata Arena.
Here are five takeaways from the grappling encounter three years ago that could shed some light on their upcoming battle.
#1 Relentless Submission Offense
From the start of the match until its conclusion, Nicolini never stopped chaining submission attempts together in her pursuit of the finish.
Lee had to contend with an armbar, then a guillotine choke, and then a triangle choke in quick succession before she finally tapped to the toehold.
The Singaporean will remember that if she goes to the ground, her rival will not wait around – she will have to be prepared to defend immediately or face the prospect of having to tap out.
#2 Controlled Attacks
The old adage says that attack is the best form of defense, and the Sao Paulo native demonstrated this by shutting down Lee’s offense with her own.
It was not just that the Brazilian was always threatening to lock up a finishing technique, either. Her attacks came from tightly-locked overhooks and head control, which shut down her rival before she could get anything going.
That strategy could work in mixed martial arts, too. In theory, if Nicolini can keep the Evolve and United MMA representative’s posture broken and arms contained, she will be unable to strike and cause damage – supposedly one of her advantages.
#3 The Brazilian’s Mental Edge
The incident that sparked Angela Lee and Michelle Nicolini's heated rivalry! Their strawweight super-bout goes down on 12 July! ????????????????: Chatri Sityodtong????: Kuala Lumpur | 12 July | 6PM | ONE: MASTERS OF DESTINY????: Get your tickets at ???? http://bit.ly/onemastersofdestiny19????: Check local listings for global TV broadcast????: Watch on the ONE Super App ???? http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp ????????: Prelims LIVE on Facebook | Prelims + 2 Main-Card bouts LIVE on Twitter
Posted by ONE Championship on Sunday, July 7, 2019
A dominant, comfortable win has to give Nicolini some confidence ahead of another encounter with her former teammate.
There will be many more variables under ONE’s Global Rules in Kuala Lumpur, and Lee will have more tools to call upon, but Nicolini has undeniable proof that she can make her opponent tap if she can get her into her domain and unleash her world-class BJJ.
#4 Lee’s Crafty Escapes
There are definitely some positives for the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion to take – primarily that she survived through several extremely tight spots, and eventually escaped.
In a straight grappling match, Lee had no choice but to resume a close-quarters battle, but in mixed martial arts, if Lee finds even an inch of space, she can disengage, step back to create distance, and return to her feet.
Though the 23-year-old says she will be happy to mix it up with Nicolini in any facet of the game, the experts say she has a striking advantage, and she says she plans to win by KO, so she would be quite happy to do that.
#5 Window Of Opportunity
Nicolini’s best chance of winning a bout against the Singaporean is to get the contest to the mat, but there is no way to gauge her ability to do that from their grappling contest.
The Brazilian pulled guard on “Unstoppable” at the first opportunity to try and attack from underneath. That was a legitimate tactic in a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu match-up, but if she tries that this Friday, she will run the risk of absorbing punches, elbows, and knees from the top position.
Also, she will not be able to wait on her back for Lee to jump in and engage. If these athletes find themselves in a similar position, you can bet that Lee will wait, and the referee will order her to stand up – just what she will not want to do.