Laura “La Gladiadora” Balin exceeded many people’s expectations by pushing “The Panda” Xiong Jing Nan to the judges’ scorecards, but the Chinese athlete held on to her ONE Strawweight World Title with a dominant victory.
Xiong left no doubts that she deserved the unanimous decision at ONE: PINNACLE OF POWER on 23 June, as the Argentinian challenger was dominated for the majority of their 25-minute contest.
It was one-way traffic in the first round, as the champion picked up the pace and aggression from the opening bell – attacking with her boxing.
Balin tried to find some solace in the clinch, but “The Panda” would not let up, reacting with hard knees. A lateral drop put the Chinese champion in top position, where she poured on the pressure with ground and pound from every angle.
Balin managed to see out the tempestuous opening round and came out for the second with a renewed vigour. Although the Argentinian was still outgunned on the feet, she showed her Brazilian jiu-jitsu acumen on the ground, escaping several submission attempts.
The champion was still in control, but Balin began to show she belonged after a first-round blowout.
Round three was where “La Gladiadora” did some of her best work, threatening from her back with an offensive guard game.
She shut down more of Xiong Jing Nan’s ground and pound, but could not find any serious inroads towards a submission.
“The Panda” rallied with a flurry that had Yuji Shimada ready to pounce, but Balin stayed in the contest with a heel hook attempt.
As the championship rounds began, Balin was being picked apart by the renowned finisher, but Xiong Jing Nan’s aggression was notably scaled back as the hard pace began to take its toll on both competitors.
Balin needed a miracle to win by the time the final round came, but she could not find the finish she needed.
The champion seemed comfortable, having her way with the striking exchanges, and staying well clear of danger.
“The Panda” used her sharp boxing to remain in control, leaving no doubt that she had retained her crown against a game opponent when the action ended.
Xiong made her first defence as ONE Women’s Strawweight World Champion and improved her record to 15-1.
Though she did not earn a knockout as she did in her first two ONE bouts, it was a mature performance that proved her ability to go for 25 minutes and stay in control of a tireless opponent.