Jihin “Shadow Cat” Radzuan was originally slated to face Jenelyn “The Graceful” Olsim at ONE: BAD BLOOD, but the latter’s withdrawal has allowed her to meet one of her favorite martial artists inside the Circle.
The Malaysian phenom will now face Mei “V.V” Yamaguchi in an atomweight mixed martial arts clash this Friday, 11 February, and she’s excited to duke it out with the Japanese veteran.
“When I met her in person back in Kuala Lumpur, she was very friendly,” Jihin says.
“I’ve always rooted for her whenever she fights. She’s an experienced fighter so I always see her techniques in the Circle and use it as an inspiration to include it in my game.
“Another reason why I love her is because she’s also a cat person – that’s the most important thing!”
Yamaguchi, a two-time ONE Atomweight World Title challenger, is thrilled that the rising star looks up to her, but she’ll be all business when they go head-to-head at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
“That makes me incredibly happy. I’m glad that she says that, and I’m glad that she makes me her target in so many ways,” the 39-year-old says.
“But a fight is a fight. I always respect my opponents, but that doesn’t mean there is anything special about it. A match is a match, and we will hit each other.”
“V.V” took this bout against Jihin with just one week to prepare, but neither athlete is fazed by the late notice.
Instead, they’re grateful to be competing on the card.
“You cannot predict anything or the enemies you’re going to face during this pandemic. So this time around, Jenelyn Olsim got injured, and I got another opponent, which is Mei Yamaguchi,” Jihin says.
“It’s going to be an interesting and very exciting fight because she’s been doing this forever. I think I was in a bit of a shock when my coach first told me that I’m going to fight Mei.
“But at atomweight, you just cannot avoid any fighters.”
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Yamaguchi expressed a similar sentiment about the situation.
“I wanted to fight as soon as possible after the new year, so I hadn’t dropped the intensity of my training too much. When I was offered this fight, I was able to accept it right away,” she says.
“I’ll give it my all, but I’m sure there will be some pretty tough moments. I accepted the match knowing that. I think it’s good to have a match like that because it’s interesting to watch.”
When it comes to their stylistic matchup, both athletes have plenty of experience in the striking department, but most of their success in ONE has come through their grappling.
For her part, “Shadow Cat” believes she must avoid “V.V’s” elite ground skills, but she also feels well-prepared for that challenge.
“We watched her recent fights to study her moves, to study what she’s going to do,” she says of Yamaguchi.
“She’s going to try to strike and try to control me in the clinch or against the fence, or try to take me down. My job is I have to keep my distance and I have to try to counter the takedowns or defend them.
“Everyone knows Mei Yamaguchi is a good grappler. I don’t want to go into her game. That’s why we are going to try to keep it standing and not go to the ground.”
If it does go to the ground, Yamaguchi recognizes that Jihin has a dangerous guard game.
Still, she expects to hold the edge in that area by utilizing her veteran savvy.
“I think it will be a battle of newaza (ground fighting). She is also good at newaza and will move, so I think this is a good matchup,” the Japanese star says.
“I think she is a well-balanced fighter overall. She seems to have a strong body, and I have an impression that she can attack any opponent from the bottom. I think it’s great that she’s not afraid to attack from the bottom in MMA.
“[I think I have the upper hand] in terms of experience and detailed movements in all aspects. I want to take advantage of them.”
Both athletes know they’re in for a tough, grinding encounter. That could suit Yamaguchi, but it could also help the 23-year-old Jihin, who has youth on her side.
The Malaysian certainly hopes it goes her way. Above all, she wants to stage an unforgettable performance and continue her rise through the bustling atomweight ranks.
“For me, I just want to put on a good fight. I want to see people say stuff like, ‘Wow, this young Asian girl is much better,’” Jihin says.
“My first expectation, of course, is that I’d like to get the finish in the first round or the second round, but if we go to a decision too, I want to make sure that I am totally dominating the fight.”
For Yamaguchi, this matchup is a chance to prove she’s still a dangerous threat who deserves to fight the best on the global stage.
“Jihin is an opponent who moves with a lot of momentum, but I think the decisive factor for me is to go for the submission with as much momentum as she has,” she adds.
“I want to win again in a good way, have an interesting fight, entertain the audience, and leave a memorable impression.”