The Japanese veteran wanted to make a big statement against her Argentinean rival to strengthen her claim for another shot at the ONE Atomweight World Title, and the best way to do that was to dominate and get a quick stoppage.
Mei Yamaguchi pulls off a slick armbar on Laura Balin in the first round, staking her claim to a ONE Atomweight World Title shot! ????????Watch the full event on the ONE Super App ???? http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast
Posted by ONE Championship on Friday, May 17, 2019
Fortunately, the former ONE Strawweight World Title contender – who came into the bout on little more than a week’s notice – came out hard and fast, and that played into the Deep Jewels Featherweight World Champion’s hands.
“I had to win with a clear finish,” Yamaguchi says.
“I really thank my opponent for taking the fight at the last minute, but I still had to really show [a great] performance, especially because she lost her last match in about a minute. There was a little bit of pressure on me to finish in the first round.
“I was sure that she would be aggressive with her standup. She came forward just how we thought, so it was no problem. I could have gone against her with my kickboxing, but I thought it would be easier to take her down.”
It did not take long for Yamaguchi to put Balin on the mat, and once she was there, she had no intention of letting her get back to her feet.
She had to work patiently for a few moments to get into a position to end the match, but as soon as “V.V.” moved to side control, Balin was in serious trouble.
An arm-triangle choke did not get the job done, but “La Gladiadora” tapped quickly once her arm was put in peril.
“If I’m going to fight against a girl who has pretty flexible arms like Angela Lee, I might not go to the armbar, but I think Laura is a bit different. When I saw her arm, I just went for it,” Yamaguchi explains.
According to the 36-year-old, the setup and submission worked exactly how she teaches it to her students, which made the finish that much sweeter.
“It’s really nice to have that clear submission. It feels good when you finish in the way you teach your students,” Yamaguchi adds.
“I teach a lot of grappling, and I always teach that [technique] step-by-step. You shouldn’t rush too much, and I was able to show that in the real fight. That’s a big bonus when I can finish with my favorite submission.”
With the win, Yamaguchi almost assuredly positioned herself as the next challenger to face reigning ONE Atomweight World Champion “Unstoppable” Angela Lee for the third time later this year. None of her peers in The Home Of Martial Arts can match her rich vein of form.
Lee holds a pair of wins over Yamaguchi in their two previous meetings, but both bouts were back-and-forth battles that could have gone either way on the judges’ scorecards and ended with the crowd on its feet in recognition of the athletes’ performances.
Despite coming up short twice, Yamaguchi believes she has improved by leaps and bounds, and she will have the tools to bring about a different result next time around.
“The first time when I fought her, I didn’t have an official kickboxing coach. For the second match, I had just started working on my pad work and my boxing with my boxing and kickboxing coaches,” she explains.
“It’s been quite a while after I started with those coaches, so now I’m really starting to get the striking and ground game together – I’m working on wrestling to put everything together.
“I think my level is improving little by little. Now I’m getting pretty comfortable in every situation.”
However, while the Tokyo native believes the shot at the gold should be hers, she also does not want to sit on the sidelines if she has to wait for that opportunity.
That is why she is more than willing to compete again this summer before a match with Lee materializes before the year is over.
“I’m always ready, but Angela lost in the [strawweight] World Title match [against Xiong Jing Nan] the last time, and I think ONE Championship might want us to fight in a World Title match in Singapore, and that might be in November. I’m always ready, but it’s always about those other things,” Yamaguchi says.
“I hope I can have another fight before that. It’s a bit too long to wait until autumn. Summer would be nice. If it’s going to be October in Japan or November in Singapore, that would be fine, too, but I hope I’ll have one match in summer to improve on everything.”