ONE: Inside the Matrix streams this Friday, presenting us with some of the best MMA Asia has to offer. This card is stacked, with not one, but four world title fights. The first is a grudge match between strawweight champion ‘The Panda’ Xiong Jing Nan and #1 contender Tiffany ‘No Chill’ Teo. We’ll take a look at the skills of these two competitors and how they match up, and how to turn around the results for Xiong Jing Nan Vs Tiffany Teo 2.
The First Encounter
The first time these two faced off was January 2018 for the inaugural title, with Xiong stopping her opponent in the fourth round. That marked the first and only loss on Teo’s record, and she now has the chance to find redemption once and for all. We’ll start the story there, looking at how the two interacted and where they’ve gone since.
It was clear from the outset of the fight that Xiong was more comfortable in the striking exchanges, especially with her hands. Tiffany looked a little flustered in the first minute but took the fight to the floor with a trip, where Xiong struggled to mount an offense. Her preferred method of defense was feet on the hips of Teo and pushing away to stand. Unfortunately for Tiffany, Xiong dominated just about every area after that. The Panda had better power, landed more strikes, and attempted more submissions. It’s hard to see Tiffany winning any area of that fight, but what lessons could be learned from that first encounter?
For the conditioning side of things, I wouldn’t assume Teo is too far behind. Part of the trouble is that she spent a lot of the match moving backward – a tiring prospect – which in turn stemmed from the damage taken. Xiong’s weapon of choice was – and is – the overhand right and frequently opened her combinations with it. Tiffany’s response was flawed in two respects. One, she overreached to defend, which left her exposed to the strikes. Two, she failed to get respect with the jab and left her chin up in the air while she threw it. If she was able to either make the jab a greater threat or keep her head inside her shoulder while she threw it, she may have been able to stem the onslaught. Jing was left far too comfortable to throw that right hand over and over again, which in turn prevented traffic coming back the other way. Tiffany needed more sting and more protection.
In terms of grappling, Xiong was far from strong on the bottom. There were a couple of good submission attempts, but really the only damage and danger came when Xiong was on top – the ground and pound there was really quite impressive. Her best work on the bottom was feet on the hips and working to a standing position. Tiffany, by comparison, did a good job taking the fight to the ground but didn’t do a lot of work when she was there. Partially due to the feet on her hips, damage landed was far from where it needed to be, and not much came in the way of submissions. To make the takedowns worthwhile she needs to create some kind of threat.
For all Tiffany’s heart in the first match, it was never going her way. She just didn’t create any danger for Xiong throughout the bout, but that was pushing three years ago and a lot can happen in the meantime.
The Power Hitting Panda
We will start with the champion. former powerlifter and later boxer, Xiong is nothing if not powerful. Her strikes really seem to intimidate opponents. Not only that, but stoppages with punches are few and far between in the women’s divisions, especially the lighter ones, but Xiong isn’t left wanting for finishes with her hands. On the other hand, she’s not the most subtle of strikers. Where other fighters might feint, parry, and bait their opponent to find openings, she is nothing but honest. She wants to lead with the right hand, she wants to come with powerful, looping punches, and she wants to take your head off. Xiong leans on her physical attributes, being faster and stronger than her opponents, and bringing more firepower to bear than her counterpart can.
That might not be the most dangerous place against Xiong Nan though: that could well be beneath her. Her ground and pound have really dealt punishment to her opponents, but again it’s all about the physical attributes. If she can get to the takedown first she presents a danger, but she has to try first. Her takedown defense isn’t much to speak of. Get her on her back, and you’re likely safe. The submission attempts are far from frequent, and her most effective defense is probably to stand up – an underrated defense, but not a dangerous one.
The only fighter in the past few years to find success against Xiong Jing Nan was Angela Lee. The success was on two fronts. Xiong is ultra-aggressive and leads with forwarding pressure. When her opponent backs up, she seems to gain momentum and the strikes begin to land thick and fast. When Angela stuck in the jab, that momentum was reduced and Xiong thought twice about moving forwards any further.
The second was much more subtle – with Lee more powerful in the clinch, and more effective at takedowns, Xiong had to hold off from her forward pressure or risk being caught up, turned against the cage, and taken down. Xiong is least threatening at that point. In the first fight, the issues for Angela really began as she got tired. Slower and less able to throw in jabs, the damaging shots really started landing and the damage started mounting up.
What are the lessons then? Xiong Jing Nan is powerful and aggressive but punches in a very predictable method. They are arching, head focussed blows, moving forward. The method to counter them? Jabs, forward focussed attacks, and not beginning to fall back. Once punches start landing and you start reversing to the cage wall, it’s the beginning of the end.
‘No Chill’ in the Rematch
Tiffany Teo has fought twice since her one and only defeat. To watch those fights, including the one against Xiong, there are some favorite techniques and common habits that we can spot.
In the striking department, it’s mostly straight punches, leg kicks, and high switch kicks. In the first fight, she didn’t put much time into the legs, and I’m inclined to say that was the right choice. Arcing shots do little to prevent forward aggression, so Tiffany is liable to be bulldozed if she tries them when the champion comes forwards. Likewise with the head kicks, if Tiffany isn’t able to place her feet then they’re just not going to land with much venom. No, the key to this is in the punching range. In the first bout, she didn’t get The Panda’s respect, and it showed. Nothing stopped her opponent from moving in, but against both Michelle Nicolini and Ayaka Miura we saw evidence of much more power with the left hand – it exists, so Tiffany just needs to find it.
In grappling, I’m in two minds. Tiffany hasn’t shown a lot of threat in the submission or ground and pound department, but her takedowns aren’t bad. She favors the inside trip from the clinch position, and she was able to utilize that a lot in the first match. She’s not as strong as Xiong, but if she can get that trip at first she can end up on top, where she couldn’t be safer.
Straight Punching Gets Boxers Plums
So it’s much more interesting to pick apart how to turn the results around, rather than keeping it as before. What does the ideal fight for Tiffany Teo look like? Think Ortega vs Korean Zombie. Zombie, like Xiong, is all about arching power punches. Ortega’s response was to keep his hands high and to the sides of his head and to jab his opponent’s face off. Tiffany needs to do the same. The jab is there, as we have seen in some later fights, she just needs to get more sting behind it to get The Panda’s respect. Stifle the onslaught, don’t overreach for punches, and stand her ground. Once she can do that Tiffany will have her foot in the door and begin to mount some offense – perhaps her switch kick, or something else we’re yet to see? Whatever the case, not moving backward will help preserve her gas tank, and prevent Xiong from building up the momentum needed to run away with the striking department.
One key difference between Teo and Angela Lee, however, is in the clinch and on the ground. Where this was Angela’s most successful area against Xiong, it was Tiffany’s worst. She cannot afford to end up underneath the champion, and she hasn’t got the strong clinch to make The Panda think twice about rushing in. That said, her trips are effective, and who ends up on top seems to be more about who attempts the takedown first. Tiffany is going to need to be quick though.
Unfortunately, I’m not optimistic about No Chill. The game plan is clear – jabs, stifle the aggression, takedown quickly, and don’t reach for punches – but it’s a pretty drastic change to her last outing. I think there are just too many moving parts and we’re likely to see a repeat of last time. If Tiffany can implement those aspects mentioned though, she stands a good chance of dethroning The Panda. We’ll have to wait and see what Xiong Jing Nan Vs Tiffany Teo 2 brings.
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