JAKARTA - Before her One Championship strawweight (52.3-56.7kg) title clash with China's Xiong Jingnan in Jakarta, Tiffany Teo's coach Luke Adams said he has never seen the Singaporean mixed martial arts fighter tap out of a fight, whatever the situation she found herself in.
As it turned out, Teo did not tap out against Xiong, but referee Olivier Coste had to stop the fight between the two at the Jakarta Convention Center on Saturday night (Jan 20) in the fourth of the five-round bout - the main event of the Kings of Courage show.
Already sporting swollen eyes and ears from Xiong's aggressive punches in the previous five-minute rounds, the 27-year-old Teo fell to the ground after yet another volley of blows by the Chinese fighter before the bout was stopped with 2min 41sec left in that round for a technical knockout (TKO) by referee stoppage.
Teo walked off the ring and backstage, where she was seen covering her face with a bag of ice and escorted by Adams to a waiting ambulance outside the convention centre.
She was taken to a local hospital for checks, where tests revealed no serious injuries. But The Straits Times understands that she is still at the hospital for observation and is not available for interviews.
Despite the loss, Teo earned the respect of Xiong - who became One's inaugural strawweight champion with her victory - and was praised by Tiger Muay Thai (TMT) and MMA Gym head coach George Hickman.
Teo trained at TMT in Phuket, Thailand for a month before her fight.
Hickman said: "Tiffany is a super tough girl; she showed a tonne of heart... she was in the fight the whole time, but small mistakes here and there (cost her); the little things made a big dfference in a fight."
Xiong, 28, paid tribute to her fallen opponent during her post-bout media conference.
The Shandong native said: "I was very impressed by her because I hit her pretty badly, but she was still standing... I felt that she had studied my style more than I studied hers because she was pretty prepared."
Xiong is nicknamed the Power Punching Panda for her striking skills, especially after she won with a first-round TKO in a similar manner against Filipina April Osenio last month.
She added: "I actually have good skills on the ground too, and I demonstrated that in this fight. I didn't get an opportunity to do so in my last bout because it ended too soon."
Xiong was clearly superior in a straight-up punching battle against Teo, who was also out-manoeuvred on the ground when the Singaporean was going for submission moves throughout the four rounds.
The loss is Teo's first in eight professional fights, while Xiong improved her professional fight record to 11-1 with Saturday's victory.
Teo could possibly get another shot at the title in the future, but would likely have to fight her way back into contention again.
After Mei Yamaguchi lost her atomweight (47.7-52.2kg) world title bout against American Angela Lee in May 2016, she fought Istela Nunes and Jenny Huang before she got a shot at the title again. But the rematch in Singapore last November was postponed to May this year, following Lee's car accident the same month.
Hickman said: "For someone like Tiffany, I don't think it would take much (for her to bounce back). She is a very tough girl and she takes fighting seriously as a profession.
"It sucks to lose, it is the worst feeling in the world for a professional athlete, but you have to pick yourself up and keep going, and I have no doubt that she would."
Asked about the difference in standards between Teo and Xiong, Hickman said: "I think Tiffany is very good; there are things that she can improve on, but I think she will do well in the future."