At one point in the past, the thought of Angela Lee losing was hard to fathom. But now the reigning ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion is on a two-bout skid after dropping a unanimous decision to Michelle Nicolini at ONE: MASTERS OF DESTINY.
Lee, who has mostly been dominant in her ONE Championship career, must regroup. Can she recover from the losses and bounce back?
Lee just turned 23 years old and is entering her athletic prime. But during her match with Michelle Nicolini in Kuala Lumpur, she looked overpowered. Lee has world-renowned grappling prowess and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but Nicolini easily manoeuvred into advantageous positions on the ground. Lee often uses her striking to get to the ground where she has been traditionally dominant, but there was no moment in the match where she had a clear advantage.
We haven’t seen Lee have this issue at atomweight. A well-prepared Mei Yamaguchi nearly handed Lee a defeat twice, but she couldn’t battle past the champion’s length advantage. Lee’s natural size will probably always be a significant impediment for her opponents at atomweight.
At ONE: CENTURY in October, Lee will figure in a rematch with current ONE Women’s Strawweight World Champion Xiong Jing Nan. The match will take place at atomweight, which would seemingly sway things in Lee’s favor because she is more used to making that weight.
Lee lost the first meeting with Xiong, but she could rest in the fact that she was in control of that match for four rounds before she ran out of gas chasing a triangle armbar submission. Xiong survived and simply took advantage of an exhausted Lee in the fifth round en route to the late TKO victory. It’s hard to tell what psychological effect the TKO loss will have on Lee, and what further impact the losing streak will bring.
Lee is big for the atomweight class, so she has been competing at strawweight for a while now, the weight class where she took those losses. It makes us wonder if she has the power to get it done against the top competition in that weight class.
If she defeats Xiong at atomweight, we could see a rematch back at strawweight which gives Lee another opportunity to become the first woman to hold two ONE Championship belts in different divisions.
Lee is in a tough spot in her career, but she can turn to her fellow ONE Championship athletes for inspiration. Eduard Folayang has had to pick himself up multiple times in the past en route to winning the ONE Lightweight World Title twice on different occasions. In fact, he’ll be trying to do it again at ONE: DAWN OF HEROES on 2 August in Manilla when he takes on Eddie Alvarez.
Lee can also draw inspiration from her younger brother and current ONE Lightweight World Champion, Christian Lee, who endured a tough 2018 with consecutive losses before reaching glory this year. We’ll find out soon if the quick turnaround is the remedy for Lee’s issues.