Angela Lee chokes back tears after chokehold win

Angela Lee tightening her grip on the rear-naked choke hold on China's Xiong Jingnan in their atomweight title bout at One:Century in Tokyo yesterday. PHOTO: ONE CHAMPIONSHIP
Angela Lee tightening her grip on the rear-naked choke hold on China's Xiong Jingnan in their atomweight title bout at One:Century in Tokyo yesterday. PHOTO: ONE CHAMPIONSHIP

Dramatic end to atomweight champion's title defence against Xiong, who beat her in March

At the Ryogoku Kokugikan hall in Tokyo, where murals of legendary sumo wrestlers adorn the walls, it was a lithe woman weighing slightly over 52kg who stole the show yesterday morning.

Mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter Angela Lee produced a dramatic end to her One Championship atomweight title defence against Xiong Jingnan at the One:Century event, submitting the Chinese fighter with just 12 seconds left in their five-round, 25-minute match.

Tears flowed freely at the end of the fight for Lee, who has a Singapore-born dad and South Korean mum and fights under the Singapore flag. Yesterday's win meant she avenged her loss to Xiong in March, when she unsuccessfully contested for the Chinese fighter's strawweight title, and stopped her slide.

Four months after her defeat by Xiong, Lee suffered a decision loss against Brazilian grappling expert Michelle Nicolini in a non-title strawweight fight. Lee had won all nine of her earlier fights.

The 23-year-old Lee said: "Earlier in the year I was struggling with self-confidence and doubt, and I was (questioning) if I belong here, and if I'm really a champion.

"But the way it played out today, me having to work for it and keep pushing, and then at the end get that finish...

"It's like a dream come true."

The intrigue surrounding her rematch with Xiong drew the Japanese fans, who flocked to the arena despite the city being rocked by Typhoon Hagibis, which had brought an eerie calm over Tokyo about 18 hours earlier.

Xiong, who had dropped a weight class to chase Lee's belt, impressed initially with her crisp striking in the roller-coaster bout. But Lee rebounded with a dominant third round, utilising her ground game to great advantage.

However, heading into the final round, it looked like Xiong still had the edge. In One, fights are scored by judges in its entirety, not by the round.

But Lee kept her pre-fight promise of not leaving the decision to the judges, taking Xiong's back and eventually sliding her arm around Xiong's throat and locking in a rear-naked choke, forcing the Chinese fighter to submit.

ALL DOWN TO TEAMWORK

I didn't know what I was doing. All I could hear were my brother and my dad in my corner. That last round, that was not me. That was all my team and my family, and I owe it all to them for this defence.

ANGELA LEE, MMA fighter, who beat China's Xiong Jingnan in her One Championship atomweight title defence.

Said Lee: "In that last round I was rocked. I didn't know what I was doing. All I could hear were my brother and my dad in my corner.

"That last round, that was not me. That was all my team and my family, and I owe it all to them for this defence."

She added that her goal is to still capture the strawweight title and become One's first two-division female champion. Lee, who resides in Hawaii, also said she plans to visit Singapore before the year's end.

Her fight was the main event for the first part of the two-part One:Century event, One's milestone 100th live event.

Earlier, her younger brother Christian scored a unanimous decision win over Saygid Arslanaliev of Turkey in One's lightweight grand prix final.

Despite accepting the bout with just 10 days' notice - stepping in for the injured former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) champion Eddie Alvarez - One lightweight champion Christian, whose title was not on the line, outfought Arslanaliev in the three-round bout.

In the flyweight grand prix final, another former UFC great, American Demetrious Johnson, scored a unanimous decision victory over Danny Kingad of the Philippines.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 14, 2019, with the headline 'Lee chokes back tears after chokehold win'. Print Edition | Subscribe