ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion Angela “Unstoppable” Lee (8-0) has knocked out or submitted every opponent she has competed against in ONE Championship, except the woman she defeated for the inaugural title.
Now, a year and a half after toppling Japanese atomweight Mei “V.V.” Yamaguchi (16-10-1) via unanimous decision to capture the belt, the Singaporean titleholder has an opportunity to definitively defeat Yamaguchi without requiring the judges.
On Friday, 24 November, Lee will defend her coveted belt against Yamaguchi in a rematch at ONE: IMMORTAL PURSUIT. The headlining tilt, which also features Ben Askren defending the ONE Welterweight World Championship against former ONE Lightweight World Champion Shinya Aoki in his retirement match, takes place at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
“I won the first match, but this is my chance to do it right, the way I usually do it. I like to finish my bouts in devastating fashion, and that is how I see this match ending. I am going to finish her,” the 21-year-old says.
“Mei (Yamaguchi) is a tough opponent and she has never been finished before. All of her losses are by decision. I know she is gritty and she is tough, but this time it is going to be different.”
Ever since defeating Yamaguchi in their internationally-acclaimed Bout of the Year 2016 clash at ONE: ASCENT TO POWER in May 2016, capturing the inaugural ONE Women’s Atomweight World Championship in the process, Lee has displayed a complete evolution in her martial arts techniques.
This past March at ONE: WARRIOR KINGDOM, the “Unstoppable” heroine flashed the crisp Muay Thai skills she learned from the many world champions at Evolve MMA, and unleashed it on Jenny “Lady GoGo” Huang in her first title defense. Her pinpoint striking led to a third-round TKO.
Lee followed that up with a dynamic performance against Istela Nunes at ONE: DYNASTY OF HEROES in May. She out-grappled the Brazilian challenger and constantly threatened with submission attempts in the opening stanza, and finally tapped her out in the second frame with an anaconda choke.
Making that victory even more impressive was the fact that Lee had been sick the week before the event with a form of pneumonia. Still, she persevered, and was determined to compete nonetheless.
“It was really hard, because it messed with my confidence. 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,” she admits.
“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.”
Lee has overcome her greatest adversity yet, but in November, she is looking to finish the only rival to have gone the distance with her. Yamaguchi, meanwhile, has continued to stay active.
Three months following her crushing decision loss to Lee, the Japanese atomweight squared off against Nunes at ONE: HEROES OF THE WORLD. but dropped a razor-thin split decision victory in a contest she felt she clearly won.
Still, “V.V.” was undeterred and focused on her martial arts evolution. The 34-year-old Tokyo, Japan resident competed in several karate and BJJ tournaments, with her crowning achievement being a third-place finish at the IBJJF World Championships in June. She would also defeat Huang at ONE: LIGHT OF A NATION via rear-naked choke, and later be awarded her BJJ black belt.
Now, a year and a half following their initial encounter, both Lee and Yamaguchi’s paths are set to collide once again. They will return to the cage with heightened skills and valuable experience under their belts.
Even with the boundless improvements both athletes have made, the younger Singaporean believes she undoubtedly has the edge this time around.
“I definitely have the advantage,” Lee states. “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.”
When the cage door closes on 24 November, the “Unstoppable” champion expects to be the first person to stop Yamaguchi in her ten-year career. With both athletes so determined to prevail over the other, we could be in for yet another instant classic.
Singapore | 24 November | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast | PPV: Official Livestream at oneppv.com | Tickets: http://bit.ly/onepursuit17