Jingnan Xiong Handles Michelle Nicolini, Defends Belt in One: Empower Headliner

By: Tudor Leonte
Sep 3, 2021

Every MMA match went the distance on One Championship’s first all-female card.

In the main event, One strawweight (125 pounds) titleholder Jingnan Xiong locked horns with Brazilian jiu-jitsu phenom Michelle Nicolini (6-3, 4-2 One). The 39-year-old challenger rushed in for a takedown in the early moments of the fight, but Xiong stuffed her with ease. Aware of her opponent’s grappling prowess, “The Panda” kept her distance with calf kicks and overhand rights. Xiong moved in and out with her strikes, landing practically at will on the Evolve MMA representative. Midway through the first round, the champ dropped Nicolini with a vicious right hand, but failed to finish the job as the Brazilian recovered and landed a takedown. Rounds 2 and 3 followed a similar script, as Nicolini desperately attempted to drag her opponent on the ground, spending ample energy with unsuccessful attempts, all while Xiong stung her from afar.

The defending champion controlled the pace and direction of the fight in the championship rounds as well. Xiong’s crisper striking allowed the her to score on the feet whenever she wished, as her foe faded down the stretch. When it came to reading the judges’ scorecards, the ring announcer revealed that Xiong (16-2, 6-1 One) notch her fifth title defense with a well-deserved unanimous decision victory. So far, only current 115-pound beltholder Angela Lee managed to stop “The Panda” under One's banner.

In the co-main event, Denice Zamboanga welcomed Ultimate Fighting Championship and Rizin Fighting Federation vet Seo Hee Ham to the organization as part of the atomweight (115 pounds) quarterfinals. While Zamboanga took the initiative more often than her opponent with elbows and takedowns, Ham stood her ground on the feet and retaliated with some heavy shots in turn. In the third frame, an accidental clash of heads stopped the contest for a few seconds to allow Zamboanga to recover from the blow. When the action resumed, “The Menace” forced her opponent back to the canvas, ending their encounter in top position. Ultimately, Ham (24-8, 1-0 One) impressed the majority of the judges, who rewarded her with a surprising split decision victory over Zamboanga (8-1, 3-1 One).

In the remaining clashes on the atomweight tournament, flashy combinations and submission attempts spurred Nong Stamp (6-1, 6-1 One) towards a narrow split decision victory over Alyona Rassohyna (13-5, 1-1 One) in their rematch, allowing “Stamp Fairtex” to join the semifinals; Commonwealth wrestling gold medalist Ritu Phogat (6-1, 6-1 One) overcame adversity and recorded a comeback victory by outpointing Meng Bo (17-6, 3-1 One) on all three scorecards, punching her own ticket way to the semifinals; Itsuki Hirata (5-0, 4-0 One) outgrappled Alyse Anderson (5-2, 0-1 One) en route to a unanimous decision that earned her a place in the atomweight semifinals. The organization has since stated that both semifinal matchups will be determined by fan voting.

Earlier on the card, former Glory kickboxing queen Anissa Meksen dismantled fellow newcomer Cristina Morales in the second round with punches at 2:27 of their One atomweight kickboxing clash; Jackie Buntan took home her third victory under the One banner after outstriking Daniela Lopez in a one-sided One strawweight muay Thai battle; Julie Mezabarba (9-2-1, 1-0 One) started the night by earning her sixth straight victory in a clear-cut unanimous verdict over Mei Yamaguchi (21-13-1, 6-5 One) in the lone 115-pound grand prix alternate match.
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