On Sunday, 13 October, the Singaporean snapped a two-fight losing skid and avenged her loss from the current strawweight queen.
Lee displayed brilliant grappling and pulled off her fifth-consecutive World Title defense to maintain her reign over the atomweight division.
Going into the rematch, this time in her natural weight class, Lee knew she could not afford to underestimate Xiong.
“I pushed hard every single round, and I knew I had to finish this woman. I knew she was going to be tough, but I wanted to go for the finish,” Lee said.
The memories of her defeat in March motivated the Singaporean to work on her conditioning to try and keep pace with the Chinese athlete’s stamina.
In their previous encounter, “Unstoppable” had all but emptied her gas tank gunning for an armbar submission in the fourth round, only to see the Chinese superstar hang on till the bell rung.
A fatigued Lee could not muster any defense against an offensive rally from Xiong, and the Singaporean hero fell to a heartbreaking TKO loss in the fifth round.
Determined to avoid the same outcome, the 23-year-old prepared diligently for this rematch.
“I truly believe it’s all in the preparation, and that was the main difference between the fight in March and the fight here today,” she said. “I trained harder than ever for this fight. I was able to push the pace in each round, and I felt confident.”
Her hard work paid off, and the United MMA representative executed a flawless grappling game plan that helped her overcome the boxing of “The Panda.”
Lee locked in a rear-naked choke and submitted Xiong in the final seconds of the fifth round, despite not having fully recovered from a knockdown in the fourth stanza.
Thanks to her family – who is always in her corner – “Unstoppable” summoned the strength to power through and stage a dramatic comeback to win in the final seconds.
“Honestly, in the last round, I couldn’t think straight. I really was in a daze, I was rocked. The only things that kept me going were the voices of Christian and my dad in my corner,” she said.
“I got myself to a good position, and I was able to look over and see my corner. Once I made eye contact with them, I was able to hear their voices, and hear them tell me what to do.”
Lee credits her corner’s advice in helping her stay focused in the grappling game, which proved instrumental in setting up the final submission.
“They said, ‘Keep your position, stay on the back, don’t ride too high. Okay, now look for the finish, it’s there.’ So, I really owe it all to them. They coached me through this victory,” Lee said.
With the score now tied one apiece, the 23-year-old is still chasing her goal of becoming The Home Of Martial Arts’ first women’s two-division World Champion.
“I want to be champion [at atomweight] forever, but for me, I’m not content here,” Lee said.
“I truly feel that I have something to prove at strawweight, and I want to go after it, even if my first two matches didn’t go my way. I’m not discouraged. I’m going to come back and make a statement in the strawweight division.”
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