Mixed martial arts: Lee confident of winning landmark title

Angela Lee (left) and Mei Yamaguchi facing off at The Cathay yesterday. Their atomweight title clash is one of two main bouts at the One Championship's Ascent to Power event at the Singapore Indoor Stadium tonight.
Angela Lee (left) and Mei Yamaguchi facing off at The Cathay yesterday. Their atomweight title clash is one of two main bouts at the One Championship's Ascent to Power event at the Singapore Indoor Stadium tonight.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Submissions specialist, 19, confident despite whatever veteran Japanese can throw at her

Less than a year after her first professional mixed martial arts fight, Angela Lee is on the cusp of history as she takes on Japan's Mei Yamaguchi in One Championship's first-ever women's title fight today.

But Lee, whose bout shares top billing at tonight's Ascent to Power event at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, is showing no sign of nerves ahead of her biggest fight yet.

The 19-year-old, standing on stage at the official face-off, told an excited 200-strong crowd at The Cathay: "I was born for this."

Later, the Vancouver-born Lee, who boasts a 5-0 record, told the media: "There's so much at stake but that's what makes it so exciting. All of this is going to make me put up an amazing show."

Standing in her way is the veteran Yamaguchi with a 15-8 record. The 33-year-old, who was inspired by Hong Kong actor Jackie Chan to pick up martial arts, is looking to capitalise on Lee's aggression.

"She's really aggressive and, sometimes, she makes big mistakes. So that's when I can look for a chance to submit or knock her out," said Yamaguchi, who is trained in karate and Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

I'M ONE OF A KIND

She's looking to weather the storm but she's never seen a storm like me, man. I'm like Category 6, she's not going to know what hit her.

ANGELA LEE on Mei Yamaguchi's possible game plan to take the bout to the wire.

Lee, a submissions specialist, is known to end her fights early; none of her bouts have gone the full three rounds. Yamaguchi hinted she might try to make her atomweight opponent go the distance in the five-round clash.

To which Lee said: "She's looking to weather the storm but she's never seen a storm like me, man. I'm like Category 6, she's not going to know what hit her."

Confidence aside, having started competing at the age of six, she has experience which belies her youth, and that could help in front of a near sell-out crowd of 11,000.

The night's other co-main event is the light heavyweight title clash between Roger Gracie (7-2) and Michal Pasternak (11-0).

Gracie drew laughter from the crowd when, with a wry smile, he told his opponent: "I'm here to disappoint (you)."

Organisers yesterday confirmed that all fighters are on course to make weight ahead of the nine-bout event. The athletes face one last weigh-in, at 1pm today.

One Championship is using a new system, which comprises multiple - rather than the usual one-off - weigh-ins leading up to fight night.

Yesterday, trash talking was on the menu as competitors flaunted their sculpted bodies on stage.

Singaporean Amir Khan, not to be confused with his British namesake, pointed to his Taiwanese opponent John Chang and said: "I'm going to whoop his a**."

Another local, Benedict Ang, who is up against the Philippines' Jimmy Yabo, declared: "I'm not going to lose in front of the home crowd."

ONE C’SHIP: ASCENT TO POWER
Singtel TV Ch115 & StarHub Ch209, 8.30pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 06, 2016, with the headline 'Lee looks to storm to maiden One title'. Print Edition | Subscribe