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One Championship

One Championship: Xiong ‘The Panda’ Jingnan huffs and puffs but fails to bring the house down in Macau title defence

Fight with Argentina’s Laura Balin goes to the wire before judges hand it to the Chinese champion while Angela Lee looms on the horizon

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 June, 2018, 12:55am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 June, 2018, 12:04pm

Xiong “The Panda” Jingnan insisted in the build-up to Saturday night that she had done no forward planning for Argentina’s Laura Balin ahead of their strawweight title clash at One Championship: Pinnacle of Power in Macau, and it showed as the Chinese champion turned in a lacklustre showing in front of an expectant home crowd.

Xiong (15-1) began in a blur of fury attempting to blow Balin (10-3) out of the ring swiftly. That didn’t work. Then she took the Argentine to the mat hoping to overpower her with a superior ground game. That didn’t work. At other times there was a cursory attempt at laying on a submissive manoeuvre, a road notably less travelled by the concussive striker. All failed and in the end, she simply stayed busy enough to secure a deserved if slightly unconvincing first defence of her strawweight crown.

The judges seeming to concur with the adage that it is the effort that counts.

Eventually, it was her incredible conditioning – still up on the balls of her feet after 24 minutes – that saw her past the stubborn Argentine, but the Chinese knew she had been far from her best.

“I’ve been trying to do the best I could to find my style,” Xiong offered almost apologetically. “I’m trying to pick up new styles, improve and find my rhythm.”

That endeavour, at least, was in evidence.

All hail ‘The Panda’ as China salutes new world MMA champion

In the build-up to this bout, the 30-year-old spoke of a desire to improve as she faces new challenges, and so the focus moves on to sterner examinations on her horizon.

That next test could come in the shape of American Angela Lee, who believes she has done all she can and outgrown – literally as well as figuratively – One’s atomweight division. Lee laid down her plans to gatecrash the strawweight division on social media in recent weeks.

Whether Xiong would be ready for that clash in just her second title defence would be a source of some debate on this showing, but one thing is for certain: the Chinese would be well advised to make a watertight plan in anticipation of the unbeaten Lee. Or any plan at all for that matter.

MMA fighting Panda has China’s first world title in her sights

The night drew to a conclusion with a thrilling main event unification bout between Brazil’s Adriano Moraes and Philippines’ Geje Eustaquio.

The two saved the best for last in a pulsating bout that had the Macau crowd on their feet for five bruising rounds before it went to the judges’ scorecards where Eustaquio was given the nod by split decision. He became the undisputed One Championship flyweight world title-holder avenging a loss to Moraes four years ago in the process.