Rivalries: Angela Lee

By Brian Knapp Jun 21, 2021

Angela Lee first set foot in One Championship as an 18-year-old wunderkind, and the Singapore-based organization has never been the same.

Lee debuted with the Chatri Sityodtong-fronted promotion on May 22, 2015, when she submitted Aya Saied Saber with an armbar 1:43 into the first round of their One Championship “Warrior’s Quest” pairing. It was only the beginning. The Vancouver, British Columbia, native went on to win her next eight bouts, capturing the undisputed atomweight championship in the process while quickly emerging as a fan favorite. Now 24, her record currently sits at 10-2.

As Lee awaits her next assignment from One Championship matchmakers, a look at a few of the rivalries that have helped shape her career to this point:

Mei Yamaguchi

Lee was still a teenager when she cleared the final hurdle standing between her and full-blown stardom. The “Unstoppable” taekwondo black belt waded through a stern challenge from Yamaguchi to capture the vacant women’s atomweight title in the One Championship “Ascent to Power” main event on May 6, 2016 at Singapore Indoor Stadium in Kallang, Singapore. The unbeaten Lee earned a unanimous decision after five rounds, as she emerged from a “Fight of the Year” contender with her chin high and her hand raised. The five-round encounter was filled with elaborate scrambles, exquisite transitions, crisp standup exchanges and repeated submission attempts on both sides. Yamaguchi made the 19-year-old work for the full 25 minutes, flooring her with an overhand right at the start of a remarkable third round before nearly submitting her twice with armbars. The Evolve MMA prospect passed the test and, with the outcome still very much in doubt, found another gear in Round 4 and Round 5. Lee emptied her tool chest in a bid to stop the notoriously durable Yamaguchi inside the distance. She tried everything from an armbar, guillotine choke and brabo choke to an ankle lock, arm-triangle choke and triangle choke. Her efforts failed, leaving her to settle for the decision. The two women met again some two years later, their hotly anticipated rematch yielding the same result. Lee walked away with a unanimous decision at One Championship “Unstoppable Dreams,” the victory giving her a 2-0 advantage in her head-to-head series with the former Deep Jewels champion.

Michelle Nicolini

A willingness to step out of her comfort zone cost Lee a blemish on her resume, as she dropped a unanimous decision to the eight-time Mundials winner and 2013 Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist in the One Championship “Masters of Destiny” headliner on July 12, 2019 at Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The enthralling non-title affair was contested at 125 pounds, one weight class above where Lee typically competes. The back-and-forth battle thrilled onlookers, as Nicolini routinely lured her former Evolve MMA stablemate into her guard, made her way to top position and achieved full mount on multiple occasions. Lee held her own in the grappling exchanges with the third-degree Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, but she more often than not found herself a step or two behind in their game of chess between the ropes. Round 3 was stellar from a technical standpoint and featured wild swings in momentum, the fans in attendance seemingly hanging on their every move. Lee sprawled out of a late takedown, wheeled to Nicolini’s back and made a pass at a rear-naked choke in the closing seconds but failed to do enough to sway the judges, all three of whom sided with the Brazilian.

Jingnan Xiong

Six months after the reigning strawweight champion stopped Lee with a volley of punches and kicks to the body in the fifth round of their first encounter, she made the decision to cut down to 115 pounds to challenge the “Unstoppable” Evolve MMA star for the undisputed One Championship atomweight crown. It did not unfold as she had hoped. Lee submitted “The Panda” with a rear-naked choke in the fifth round of their One Championship “Century” Part I main event on Oct. 12, 2019 at Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo. Xiong, who entered the rematch on a nine-fight winning streak, raised the white flag 4:48 into Round 5, her bid to become a simultaneous two-division champion foiled. Lee was once again largely outgunned in the standup department but exploited her advantages elsewhere. She withstood a high kick from her skilled counterpart in the fourth round and made sure she pushed the fight to a decisive fifth. There, she secured a takedown, advanced to the back and sealed Xiong’s fate with a deftly executed choke in the waning moments. A trilogy feels all but inevitable.
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