THREE years after their much talked about match–up, Japanese martial arts veteran Mei Yamaguchi is hoping to exact his revenge against Team Lakay’s Gina Iniong as replacement fighter for Angela Lee.
Yamaguchi was originally slated to challenge Angela Lee for the ONE women’s atomweight world championship title in the main event of ONE: Immortal Pursuit in Singapore on November 24.
However, Lee was involved in a car accident nearly two weeks ago, and the injuries that she sustained in the unfortunate incident forced her to regretfully withdraw from the highly-anticipated championship clash.
Lee’s sudden pullout from her world title defense left Yamaguchi without an opponent but the latter was advised by the top brass of the organization to continue her training.
ONE Championship found a suitable replacement a few days later as Filipino standout Gina Iniong accepted the offer to fill in for Lee to square off with Yamaguchi which takes place at the state-of-the-art Singapore Indoor Stadium.
Although Yamaguchi is not getting the world title rematch she anticipated against Lee, she is still getting the chance to settle an old score as the seasoned Japanese combatant once crossed paths with Iniong.
The atomweight collision is a rematch from their first encounter three and a half years ago under a regional show in the Philippines, where Iniong pulled away with a razor-thin split decision victory over Yamaguchi.
For Yamaguchi, the situation could not have worked out any better as she plans to avenge her setback to the hard-hitting Filipino.
“I was glad that Gina answered ‘yes’ to the match on the Singapore card with me,” she said. “I have always looked for a chance for revenge,” said Yamaguchi
Since their grueling three-round atomweight contest, Yamaguchi and Iniong have never seen eye-to-eye. Moreover, a lot of things have changed in their respective professional careers.
Yamaguchi captured the DEEP Jewels featherweight trinket in May 2015 before unsuccessfully challenging Lee for the inaugural ONE women’s atomweight world championship in her promotional debut back in May 2016.
Following her unsuccessful bid to become ONE Championship’s first-ever atomweight queen, she dropped a razor-thin split decision to Istela Nunes three months later before redeeming herself by submitting fellow former world title challenger Jenny Huang this June.
On the other hand, Iniong directed her career path to ONE Championship in 2017 and has looked absolutely dominant ever since she debuted on the global stage.
The 28-year-old Team Lakay product battered Natalie Gonzales Hill en route to a unanimous decision last April.
In front of a hometown crowd last November 10 at ONE: Legends of the World, Iniong extended her winning streak inside the ONE Championship cage to two matches with an outstanding second-round finish of Indonesia’s Priscilla Hertati Lumbangaol.
Yamaguchi admitted that she was able to watched Iniong recent outing very carefully and acknowledges her growth as a martial artist, but the Japanese sensation also believes she has vastly improved as well since their last meeting.
“Gina has a really good right hand she throws, and she is strong and physical. I am better with the ground game and improved more in my boxing skills compared to our previous match,” she observed.
“She competed against a good kickboxer recently, was controlling her opponent well on the ground, and was really aggressive. She looked like she won without taking much damage,” Yamaguchi added.
As Iniong poses to be a potential threat to take her place as the atomweight title contender, Yamaguchi is confident she will keep her status as next in line for Lee’s gold-plated strap.
“My story will not end here,” a determined Yamaguchi quipped.
Yamaguchi is planning to make the most of her second chance against Iniong as her objective is to leave the Singapore Indoor Stadium with her hand raised in triumph and leave the decision out of the judges’ hands.
“It is going to end early. It will be a clear finish by me. It is going to be a knockout,” she guaranteed. (Roderick Osis)
Published in the SunStar Baguio newspaper on November 21, 2017.
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