Xiong Jing Nan was hip to the dangers Michelle Nicolini posed in their strawweight title fight at ONE: Empower in Singapore on Friday.
Knowing that the multi-time BJJ champ was deadly on the ground, the Chinese champ absolutely refused to be lured in to any sort of grappling exchanges. In the opening round, Jing Nan dropped the challenger, but despite the obvious opportunity to finish the fight, she opted not to venture into the danger zone on the mat.
The champ’s stand-up prowess was clear in round one, and that continued in the second frame. This time, Nicolini was able to drag the fight to the ground, quite literally. She locked on to one of Jing Nan’s legs, pulling her down and threatening with heel hooks as the champ rolled through, defending well until she could finally escape out.
By the third round, Nicolini was looking tired, or just tired of being lit up on the feet. Jing Nan’s striking continued to be tight; she mixed in some low kicks, but had to fend off a takedown after firing a kick to the body. Nicolini then jumped into guard, forcing the champion to carry her weight. Rather than go to the ground, Xiong Jing Nan opted to press Nicolini against the fence and try to shake her lose. Eventually, the weight was too much, and to the canvas they went. The champ briefly trapped an arm with her leg, allowing her to sneak in some ground n’ pound.
The fight went to the championship rounds with Jing Nan careful not to give Nicolini any openings. And again, she refused to enter the Brazilian’s guard when Nicolini invited her in. Any success Jing Nan found on the feet, and there was plenty, seemed to be answered by Nicolini trying to lure her to the mat. The champ wasn’t biting. By the end of the round, it was clear the challenger needed a finish.
Xiong Jing Nan couldn’t avoid going to the ground with Nicolini in the fifth and final frame. But once there, the champion fought like a wild cat. As soon as she could break free, she did, and there was no looking back from that point. The unanimous decision win secures Xiong Jing Nan her fifth successful title defense, capping off a historic night at the all-female Empower card.