Defending ONE world champion Angela Lee plans on continuing her ‘Unstoppable’ reign at the top of ONE’s women’s atomweight division, and deliver a statement victory over former foe Mei Yamaguchi.
Lee faces Yamaguchi in an eagerly-anticipated rematch at ONE: IMMORTAL PURSUIT in Singapore on 24 November, and despite already holding a victory over Yamaguchi in her inaugural title win, the Singapore-born champion says she’s seeking a more decisive result.
“I won the first match, but this is my chance to do it right, the way I usually do it,” she said. “I like to finish my bouts in devastating fashion, and that is how I see this match ending. I am going to finish her.”
Lee has risen from talented young athlete to one of the brightest stars in ONE Championship. After reeling off five straight submission wins to kick off her ONE Championship career, she was pitted against Yamaguchi for the vacant ONE Women’s Atomweight World Title at ONE: ASCENT TO POWER in May 2016.
Yamaguchi posed the toughest test of her ONE Championship career at that point, taking Lee all the way to the scorecards, with ‘Unstoppable’ running out the unanimous decision victor.
Since that win, Lee’s all-round martial arts game has continued to evolve. Her first title defence saw her showcase her ever-improving striking skills in a third-round TKO victory over Jenny ‘Lady GoGo’ Huang at ONE: WARRIOR KINGDOM.
She then followed up that performance with the sixth submission win of her career with a second-round finish of Istela Nunes, in a performance that saw Lee fight off a dose of pneumonia during the week of the event in order to compete and retain her title.
“It was really hard, because it messed with my confidence,” she recalled. “I was feeling so sick on the week of the bout, and I still had to train and watch my weight while taking antibiotics. It was really tough.”
“I was so nervous and I was really scared before the bout, because I did not know how I would do. The sickness and everything really affected me. The only thing that was pulling me through were my dad’s reassurances of, ‘Hey, you trained for this and you put all the hours in. What is, at the most, 30 minutes going to do?’ I did exactly what he said, and it paid off.”
Since their first contest, Yamaguchi suffered a second setback with a razor-thin split-decision loss to Nunes — a fight she believes she won — but bounced back well with a second-round submission of Huang, improving on Lee’s finish by securing the win one round earlier than the defending champ.
That win helped her earn her Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, and demonstrated how far her skillset had evolved since her first bout with Lee.
Now the pair are set to meet again, with both athletes more experienced, more skilled and better prepared for world championship competition. Despite Yamaguchi’s noticeable improvements, Lee says her game has evolved further still.
“I definitely have the advantage,” she said. “Yes, Mei has been working heavily on her jiu-jitsu and tightening up her ground game. But during that time I have had a lot of time to work on my striking, and I have gained a lot more confidence.
“I am coming into my own, rounding out my game, and tightening everything up.
Faced with the prospect of competing against the only woman to take her the distance in her entire career, Lee plans on putting things right the second time around with a dominant performance, and a decisive finish.
“Mei is a tough opponent and she has never been finished before. All of her losses are by decision,” she explained. “I know she is gritty and she is tough, but this time it is going to be different.”