Reigning strawweight champion Xiong Jing Nan retained her strawweight title against 2013 ADCC champion Michelle Nicolini in the main event of the all-female ONE Championship: Empower tonight.
Xiong came in first with strikes, throwing a kick and a punch at Nicolini before the BJJ champion shot in for a takedown. Nicolini clung to her opponent’s leg for a few moments before driving Xiong against the fence and then dropping to butterfly guard. Xiong escaped the position, and the competitors returned to their feet. Nicolini caught a kick and chased Xiong to the cage, again returning to guard. Xiong scored a few leg kicks from above, and the referee beckoned Nicolini back to her feet. Xiong was persistent with her strikes, hitting Nicolini with a big right hand. Nicolini went to the ground and was then brought back to her feet. Xiong sprawled on a takedown attempt from Nicolini, and the fighters again stood up. In the final seconds of the first round, Nicolini chased another kick, this time getting Xiong to the ground. Xiong, however, managed to stand up again before the bell rang.
Xiong opened with a leg kick and then a punch, capitalizing on Nicolini’s search for a takedown. She stepped away as Nicolini shot in, then chased Nicolini back to the fence, landing another leg kick that put Nicolini on the ground. Another big right hand from Xiong hit its target, but then, after a leg kick from her dropped Nicolini, Nicolini affixed herself to a leg and went for a straight ankle lock. Xiong successfully defended and was able to return to her feet. Xiong kept coming in with solid kicks and punches, with a visibly fatigued Nicolini only getting in sporadic strikes until the end of the second round.
Round three saw Xiong come forward with more fast, strong punches. An accidental eye poke from Nicolini briefly paused the action, but Xiong quickly recovered. Nicolini caught another kick from her opponent and drove Xiong against the cage. She jumped closed guard, and Xiong walked her back toward the center of the cage and then against the fence, trying to shake Nicolini off. She ended up going to the ground inside Nicolini’s closed guard, keeping her opponent close against the fence. With time running short, Nicolini brought a leg in front of Xiong’s face and went for a gogoplata and then an armbar, but the bell rang before she could finish either.
Round four saw more of the same from both fighters, with Xiong staying aggressive and energetic with her punches and kicks and stepping away from Nicolini’s takedown attempts. Nicolini tried to drive Xiong to the fence, but the latter was able to escape her control. Nicolini continued to try to use her takedown attempts to pull guard, but Xiong was unwilling to get close to her opponent, and the referee brought the fight back to the feet. While Nicolini tried to close the distance, Xiong was too dangerous, her leg kicks and punches keeping Nicolini at bay.
Round five saw more leg kicks from Xiong, while Nicolini persisted in looking for a takedown. Nicolini worked to control the center of the cage, eventually getting Xiong against the fence, closing the distance, and pulling guard. Nicolini worked for a triangle, but Xiong managed to work her way out, and the fighters returned to their feet. Nicolini went for a takedown and was caught with a left hand on her way back up, knocking her back to the canvas. Still, she managed to recover enough to work her way back to guard, and Xiong soon stepped away. In the final thirty seconds of the fight, Xiong cranked up the pace even more, throwing some big punches until the end.
Xiong was declared the winner by unanimous decision and retained the ONE strawweight championship title.