The power-punching Chinese superstar has already defended her gold five times, and she will look to make it six against the Japanese grappler in their main event showdown this Friday, 14 January.
However, Miura has a very unique set skill set – one that could ultimately topple the longstanding queen when they meet at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
With fight night just days away, we break down the keys to victory for both athletes in this World Championship clash.
#1 Miura Channeling Her Inner ‘Zombie’
Incredibly, all four of Miura’s ONE victories have come via scarf-hold Americana submission, and her best chance to defeat Xiong is by ambushing her early. That means chasing “The Panda” from the opening bell in hopes of closing the distance and making contact.
The Tribe Tokyo MMA product earned her “Zombie” moniker from her ability to walk through opposing strikes and keep pushing forward, so it won’t be a new game plan on Friday. Her own striking is basic, and she’ll often forego meaningful setups to simply rush forward and grab hold of something.
It’s undoubtedly a dangerous strategy, and Miura won’t want to absorb more punishment than necessary from such a heavy hitter, but once she’s in close, she’s hard to shake off.
The 31-year-old is also capable of shooting for double-leg takedowns and has the tenacity to drive opponents backward to the Circle Wall if she doesn’t land them.
If she can find a way to clinch up with Xiong, the challenger will have a good chance of hitting her favored head-and-arm throw and bringing the fight into her world on the canvas.
#2 Xiong’s Anti-Wrestling
Xiong knows Miura is dangerous on the ground and vulnerable standing up, so she’ll be focused on keeping things upright.
Fortunately, her track record on this front is solid. She defended 11 out of 11 takedown attempts from BJJ legend Michelle Nicolini in her last World Title defense, although “Zombie” is stronger in the clinch due to her judo background.
For this reason, “The Panda” will hope to avoid being pressed up against the fence, and a patient movement-based game will help her stay out of the Japanese athlete’s clutches.
Inevitably, Miura will rush in to clinch up, giving Xiong plenty of opportunities to let loose with punches. But if the titleholder takes her time and doesn’t get greedy with her output, she’ll be able to score and rack up damage on “Zombie” while remaining fresh for longer.
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#3 Miura Setting Up Her Signature Submission
Once things hit the ground, Miura is extremely dangerous with her trademark scarf-hold Americana – dubbed the “Ayaka Lock” – but she’ll have to be clinical with the submission if she gets the chance.
In her only ONE defeat against Tiffany “No Chill” Teo two years ago, Miura got to that threatening position in round one but couldn’t snag the arm or finish an arm-triangle attempt. In the end, it was the only such opportunity she got.
That could be the case against Xiong, who has surely prepared diligently for her rival’s main offense. The Singapore resident will aim to keep her arms in tight to avoid them being trapped, so it’s important that Miura confidently holds the position to deliver ground-and-pound.
Doing so could force a reaction that isolates Xiong’s arm or even opens up the secondary arm-triangle attack. Either way, “Zombie must be ready to make the most of what could be a rare – or even a one-off – opening.
#4 Xiong’s Longevity
Xiong has stopping power for all five rounds, which she showcased when she finished atomweight queen “Unstoppable” Angela Lee late in the final frame of their legendary World Title fight in 2019.
She’s been into the championship rounds six times, winning five of those, so she’ll feel comfortable biding her time and wearing down Miura over a longer stretch.
Conversely, the Japanese judoka faded against Teo after going all-out for the early finish. As a result, she became even more exposed to strikes, and “The Panda” has the heavy hits to make her foe pay.
If she can evade Miura’s early rushes and slowly wear her out – especially with body shots and low kicks – Xiong will have laid the foundations for a finish.
Moreover, there will be less of a threat from “Zombie’s” takedowns if she is tired, so the defending champ could plant her feet more and dig into her famous looping punches in search of a knockout.