Japanese warrior Mei “V.V.” Yamaguchi is looking to make amends in her second shot at the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Title.
An 11-year martial arts veteran, Yamaguchi has faced adversity and defeat before, and came back stronger each time.
The 35-year-old lost out to Gina “Conviction” Iniong by split-decision in 2014, but in their return match earlier this year, Yamaguchi made amends, claiming a dominant decision victory.
“It was four years ago when I fought Gina the first time, and I knew what I needed to do,” she told ONE Championship.
“It was just like my practice – adjusting my technique so it would show in the fight.
“Sometimes, it is kind of hard to prepare for a fight and then do it inside the cage. But that one was just like my practice. I was able to show what I trained. It gave me more confidence.”
Now, Yamaguchi is looking to repeat the feat when she enters into the biggest rematch of her career.
On Friday, 18 May, she’ll step back into the cage with reigning ONE Atomweight World Champion “Unstoppable” Angela Lee in the main event of ONE: UNSTOPPABLE DREAMS in Singapore.
The Japanese veteran champion is adamant that she’ll make amends once again by avenging her loss to Lee back in May 2016, when she faced “Unstoppable” on her ONE Championship debut.
That bout went all five rounds, and Lee earned the judges’ decision to claim the inaugural ONE Women’s Atomweight World Title. But it was a highly-competitive bout, and Yamaguchi believes she’s now a better-prepared athlete who will make amends in her second tilt at the title.
“In the first fight against Angela, I did not have a boxing coach, because my previous boxing coach got ill, and he could not teach me anymore,” she offered.
“Then I could not find a new coach. Because I do karate, I wanted a coach that could understand that and teach me new stuff, so it was hard for me to look for a new coach.
“Now I have a new coach, and he taught me a lot of new techniques to transform my karate and kickboxing into mixed martial arts. I think I have improved a lot in that area.”
Yamaguchi also knows much more about Lee than she did when they met two years ago, and says she’s made the necessary adjustments to her game to ensure she comes out victorious on 18 May.
“It is pretty obvious that I am really confident in both the ground game and boxing,” she said.
“I have been fighting for more than 10 years. I have had good coaching, I have been to good jiu-jitsu gyms, but I still had positions that I was worried about in a fight.
“Now I am becoming more perfect in any position. I have fewer things that I am worried about, and I think that has given me a lot of confidence. I have nothing to worry about right now.
“I remember how she moves. I felt it. I remember her aggression. Because I fought her before, my body kind of remembers all of her moves. I am well prepared in everything she does, and that will give me more confidence than the first time.”
Lee will have the home-field advantage, competing in her adopted home town of Singapore, where she’s built a huge following as one of the biggest martial arts stars in the world.
While Yamaguchi is well aware of that fact, she says she’s unconcerned. She also made clear that she doesn’t plan on going all five rounds for a second time. Although she’ll be ready to go the distance, this time, she says, she’s going for the finish.
“I know Singapore is her hometown, and most of the people are going to support Angela Lee. I cannot look for a decision, I have to finish her,” she declared.
“That is the first priority for me, and I am well prepared for that. I am working on my boxing, my ground game, and my submissions. That is my first priority.
“Even if it goes five rounds, the last time when I first fought her we were moving a lot. Both of us were looking for the submission, and I was tired in the fourth and fifth rounds.
“Now I am working on how I can relax more, so if it goes the full five rounds, I can still move a lot. I am prepared for both of those scenarios.”
In every way, the upcoming main event in Singapore promises to be an encounter every bit as exciting as their first meeting.