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Angela Lee

I’ll knock her out, warns Angela Lee as ‘Unstoppable’ prepares for Mei Yamaguchi a second time

Singapore-based American is confident their latest clash will not go the distance although the Japanese veteran is also looking for a clear finish

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 May, 2018, 5:40pm
UPDATED : Monday, 14 May, 2018, 10:43pm

Angela “Unstoppable” Lee has declared there’s only one way Friday night’s One Championship world atomweight title fight against Mei “V.V” Yamaguchi will be decided.

“Knockout,” was the 21-year-old’s prediction on Monday at the official launch of the One: Unstoppable Dreams fight week.

“We’re explosive fighters and the way we fight – and the way all the fighters on this card fight – it’s going to be a knockout kind of night.”

The main event at the Singapore Indoor Stadium is a rematch of the pair’s 2016 encounter, roundly considered one of the fights of that year – anywhere. The then 19-year-old Lee took a crunching right cross from Yamaguchi in the third round that sent her to the canvas but fought her way back tenaciously over the final two rounds to claim an unanimous decision – and history.

The victory made Lee the sport’s youngest ever world champion and she’s since established herself as the driving force behind MMA’s continued rise across the region, with two successful title defences in her record now of 8-0 and a wealth of commercial endorsements.

Watch: Angela Lee v Mei Yamaguchi at their last fight in May 2016

There has been a decent dose of drama, too, with an early morning accident back home in Hawaii last November derailing initial plans for Lee-Yamaguchi II. Lee walked away relatively unscathed – bruises and concussion the only worries – and has since the new year cut herself down into fighting condition, both in Hawaii and at Singapore’s Evolve MMA gym, out of which she fights.

Lee looks lean, and ready, and since the last meeting Lee’s fight game has expanded in both its depth and its reach, particularly when it comes to striking.

Lee went toe-to-toe with both Taiwan’s Jenny Huang (5-3) and – with growing power – Brazilian Istela Nunes de Souza (5-1) in her past two wins. The fact the last came via anaconda choke is an indication of how many tricks Lee has up her sleeve, given a background steeped in the ground game.

“It helps knowing that I have fought Mei previously,” said Lee. “I know that since then she’s been working really hard and I won’t see the same fighter. But I’m not the same fighter. We bring the best out of each other and it’s going to be even more exciting than the first fight. We both want to finish it early.”

The 35-year-old Yamaguchi (17-10-1) took time on Monday to reflect on the right cross she launched back here in 2016, and on what might have happened had she effectively pounced on Lee and finished the job there and then, instead of going for an arm bar.

“I train a lot in jiu-jitsu and if there’s an arm, I go to it. It’s natural,” said the Japanese veteran. “But if I had the same chance this time, I’m going for the punishment instead. I think this fight is going to be incredible and we’re both going to try to finish it.”

Yamaguchi has come to Singapore on a 2-0 streak, having bossed both Taiwan’s Huang and Gina “Conviction” Iniong (7-3) of the Philippines in the past year. There’s little doubt among MMA fans that the veteran remains the testing material for Lee in One’s atomweight division.

“We’re both going to look for a clear finish here,” said Yamaguchi. “ Neither of us is looking for five rounds. I bounced back from that loss and feel stronger now than I ever have before. It’s going to be a big night.”

Adding further spice to Friday night is another rematch – this one pitting reigning One featherweight champ Martin Nguyen (10-2), of Australia, against Christian Lee (9-1). Lee, like sister Angela, fights out of Singapore and would match her by becoming the sport’s youngest male champ should he win, given he’s still just 19 years old.

Last time out – in Macau in 2016 – Nguyen overpowered Lee with a guillotine choke in the first and started a charge that would go on to see him win One’s featherweight and lightweight titles, and just fail to claim its lightweight crown into the bargain, losing a split decision to incumbent Bibiano Fernandes (22-3), of Brazil, in March.

Yes, this man’s a monster. Nguyen took a philosophical stand on Monday.

“I’m sure he’s worked his heart out for this event, just as I have,” said Nguyen. “But last time we fought he didn’t win an exchange. It’s just a dream to be here. Having these belts was always my dream but they’re just an accessory. I am more about spreading the true values of martial arts.”

And as the hype started to amp up, the younger Lee was keen to get in on the act.

“I’m a bigger, stronger, faster, smarter fighter,” said Christian Lee. “On Friday night, you’re going to see me go in there with controlled aggression. You’re going to see me pick Martin Nguyen apart … and finish him.”