After watching her up close for the last two years, Evolve MMA head coach and former longtime mixed martial artist Siyar Bahadurzada thinks “The Panda” Xiong Jing Nan stands above almost every peer in the sport.
He’s seen the dominant Chinese star continue to improve at the famed Singapore gym, and he expects her to showcase even more growth when she defends the ONE Women’s Strawweight World Title against Ayaka “Zombie” Miura at ONE: HEAVY HITTERS this Friday, 14 January.
“On my list, she is definitely in the top three pound-for-pound best female fighters,” Bahadurzada says. “There are very few people on this planet who are as good and as strong-willed as Jing Nan.”
Xiong started her martial arts career as a boxer and is best known for her ferocious punching power, but Bahadurzada no longer considers “The Panda” a pugilist.
Instead, he believes she owns a well-rounded game that makes her a strong match for any style she meets inside the Circle – something fans witnessed in successful World Title defenses against elite grapplers Michelle Nicolini and “Unstoppable” Angela Lee.
Moreover, the former Shooto Champion says Xiong has a brain for combat that truly sets her apart.
“Jing Nan was a boxer but now I see her as a mixed martial artist. She can wrestle, she can grapple, she can ground-and-pound, she can kick – she can do it all,” Bahadurzada offers.
“And the key to Jing Nan’s success to overcome her opponents no matter what, whether they’re wrestlers, grapplers, or strikers, is that she has a plan and knows how to implement that plan when she fights. She has a very, very high fight IQ.”
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In Miura, Xiong will be taking on another ground specialist who brings a finely honed arsenal into combat.
The Japanese judoka utilizes excellent clinch work and throws, and when she gets a rival to the canvas, she immediately hunts for her trademark scarf-hold Americana – dubbed the “Ayaka Lock.”
Bahadurzada recognizes that threat, though he does not expect the dominant strawweight queen to have trouble with the potent – but single-track – offense of her upcoming foe.
“This is another title defense and another grappler. Miura is a tough opponent, but I don’t expect any bumps in the road for Jing Nan in this fight,” the Evolve instructor says.
“Miura has a good move – the one move that she gets everybody with – so there are some things that I have changed for Jing Nan’s training so she will be aware of it, but more than that she shouldn’t get in that position.
“There are ways you can get out of it but also ways you can avoid it, so it’s better to avoid it than cure it.”
“The Panda” burst onto the global stage with four knockouts in her first five wins, proving she definitely has the tools to finish “Zombie” inside the allotted five rounds.
However, her last stoppage victory came against Lee back in 2019, and some critics – including Miura – have pointed to that as a sign of weakness.
Bahadurzada doesn’t agree given the high-level opponents Xiong has faced, although he also has faith in her ability to end fights definitely going forward.
“As a coach, I don’t push my fighters to go for knockout. I like finishes – I was a finisher myself when I was an athlete – but I tend to train them in a way that the finish will come naturally,” he says.
“When you look for knockouts, that’s when you make mistakes. You’re too focused on one thing. Knockouts will come. It’s just meeting the right opponent.”
Bahadurzada is not putting any pressure on Xiong and is looking forward to a record-breaking sixth ONE World Title defense.
After that, there could be fresh challengers for the gold or opportunities in a new weight class, but the teacher sees no restrictions on how far his star pupil can go.
“Jing Nan is going to impose her will and impose her game, which is to take Miura out as fast as possible,” Bahadurzada adds.
“She has cleared almost the entire strawweight division. The sky is the limit for her.”