If “The Panda” Xiong Jing Nan wants the surpass the success she has enjoyed so far as a ONE Championship athlete, she will have to overcome the biggest challenges of her career.
The Chinese hero has been outstanding so far in The Home Of Martial arts – with three wins in 2018 at the highest level allowing her to make history.
She became her nation’s first mixed martial arts World Champion when she defeated Tiffany “No Chill” Teo by knockout in January for the inaugural belt in the women’s strawweight division.
To complete her campaign, she defended her crown twice – with a decision against Laura Balin and a TKO of Samara Santos. That made her by far and away the year’s top women’s performer on the global stage for martial arts.
Unfortunately, that bout was delayed when the Singaporean star was struck down by an injury, but the world will not have to wait long to see this super-match. The contest will now feature as part of the blockbuster ONE: A NEW ERA card in Tokyo, Japan on 31 March.
If “The Panda” can deliver on her promise and prevail with a KO, she will stand as the most dominant World Champion in the world’s largest martial arts organization with three consecutive defenses. From there, she will have a few options.
As an industry leader, ONE can attract the biggest and most high-profile free-agent athletes to step under the lights, so Xiong may have to face the pick of the planet’s most dangerous competitors. As she did this year, she will have no qualms about welcoming them to the organization so she can defend her belt.
If she can hold on to her gold once or twice more, she is likely to face more challenges from ONE’s established strawweights, too.
The most likely candidate is Teo, who went back to the drawing board and emerged as a new-and-improved athlete when she returned to the cage in November.
By surviving the submission threat of Michelle Nicolini and battling back to win a unanimous decision, “No Chill” showed she may now have the skills – along with the courage and determination – to match Xiong if they meet again.
Their second bout would offer a compelling contest, worthy of the main event slot anywhere in Asia, but especially in either woman’s home nation of China or Singapore.