2018 Asia MMA Awards breakdown: Female Fighter of the Year shortlist


The 2018 Asia MMA Awards, hosted by The Fight Nation, will take place on September 14, 2018 in Hong Kong. The gala will bring together elite MMA performers, promoters, teams and brands from across the continent in celebration of their achievements.

The Awards are based on events and bouts which took place in the period between May 31, 2017 to May 31, 2018. The shortlists of nominees were developed in consultation with industry specialists and journalists. They reflect those who have delivered outstanding and notable performances.

This is the first in a series of breakdowns for each Awards category. The breakdown of each nominee will share their title, background, career brief, and accomplishments which led them to be nominated.

Below is the shortlist (in alphabetical order by family name).

Female Fighter of the Year

Kanna Asakura – Rizin Fighting Federation
Linda Darrow – One Pride
Ham Seo-Hee – Road FC
Angela Lee – One Championship
Xiong Jing Nan – One Championship
Zhang Weili – Kunlun / UFC

Kanna Asakura
Kanna Asakura, Female Fighter of the Year nominee

Kanna Asakura 浅倉 カンナ

Title: Rizin 49kg Tournament Winner

Background: Kanna was born in 1997, making her just 20 years old. She is from Chiba, Japan and fights out of Paraestra Matsudo. Kanna started wrestling in elementary school, continued through high school, and was ranked 3rd place overall in 2013 National Hight School competition. She became interested in Shootboxing and MMA after watching Rena compete.

Career brief: In 2014, at the age of 17, Kanna turned pro at VTJ 6th. She won her first three, including beating female MMA OG Yasuko Tamada. In the next 2 years, Kanna competed in all the main Japanese organizations: Shooto, Pancrase, Deep, and Rizin. In 6 fights, she only lost two decisions: one to all around phenom Syuri Kondo, and one to Josh Barnett-trained Alyssa Garcia.

2017-18: In the Awards period, Asakura had an undefeated run of 5-0, with two submissions. It started with her winning the Deep 48kg Tournament by defeating the much more experienced Saori Ishioka. Then she joined the Rizin 49kg Tournament. Asakura decisioned Sylwia Juskiewicz (co-pro MMA debut with Joanna Jenrzujczyck, wins over Magdalena Mroz and Lena Ovchynnikova in kickboxing), submitted Maria Oliveira (top 20 ranked in Brazil), and stunningly submitted Shootboxing Queen Rena in the first round to win the finals. In her last fight during the period, she beat former KOTC Champion Melissa Karagianis.

Video: Rizin Confessions #4: Rena vs Kanna

Linda Darrow wmma
Linda Darrow, Female Fighter of the Year nominee

Linda Darrow

Title: One Pride Strawweight Champion

Background: Darrow is 28 years old, and fights out of Han Academy and Synergy BJJ in Surakarta, Indonesia. Her brother is a boxer and he father was a judo athlete and coach. Darrow is soon to be married to one of Indonesia’s first MMA fighters, Johan Mulia Legowo. Martial arts has always been a way of life for her and her family, so she grew up learning many disciplines, including wrestling, boxing, Muay Thai, and jiu jitsu.

Career brief: Darrow made her pro debut just over 1 year ago in Indonesia’s One Pride MMA promotion. With a 31 second KO, she announced herself loud and clear.

2017-18: In the Awards period, Darrow continued to rack up 5 more wins and retain an undefeated record of 6-0, with 5 first round knockouts. She fought in the 115lbs Tournament, won the Strawweight title, and defended her belt once. It was just announced that Darrow received a training scholarship at the UFC Performance Institute in Las Vegas, USA.

Video: One Pride Pro Never Quit #19: Linda Darrow defeats Rocel Catalan by TKO, R1 2:15

Ham Seo Hee wmma
Ham Seo-Hee, Female Fighter of the Year nominee

Ham Seo-Hee 함서희

Title: Road FC Atomweight Champion

Background: Ham is 31 years old, and fights out of Team Mad in Busan, South Korea. She started kickboxing as a teenager because she expected to have a career in the military and she wanted to toughen up. MMA was also being taught so she gravitated towards that as well.

Career brief: In 2007, her first year of professional MMA and kickboxing, she beat two women who were at the top of the rankings in Japan: Hisae Watanabe (who was 17-4) and Megumi Yabushita (who was 15-10). In the next ten years of fighting, she fought in Deep, Smackgirl, Jewels, Gladiator, Shootboxing, and Road FC. Ham claimed the Jewels 48kg title and defended it twice, racking up a record of 15-5. Ham Seo-Hee then made history as the first woman from South Korea to fight in the UFC. It was in the strawweight division, one above hers, so in facing larger opponents she ended up with a record of 1-3 in the UFC, earning one Fight of the Night bonus against Courtney Casey..

2017-18: During the Awards period, Ham resumed fighting in Korea, post-UFC. She returned to Road FC, where she won the Atomweight title by TKO over Deep Champion Mina Kurobe. Ham was then considered the #1 women’s atomweight in the world. She defended her title once against Invicta FC challenger and #2 in the world, Jinh Yu Frey, in the highest level women’s match ever to be held in Asia, and she won with a stunning first round TKO.

Video: Road FC 45 XX: Ham Seo-Hee defeats Jinh Yu Frey by TKO, R1 4:40

Angela Lee wmma
Angela Lee, Female Fighter of the Year nominee

Angela Lee

Title: One Championship Atomweight Champion

Background: Angela was born in 1996, making her just 21 years old. She was born in Vancouver, Canada and fights out of Evolve MMA. Her childhood was spent with her brothers in the family dojo with her father and mother both martial arts teachers, learning taekwondo, jiujitsu, and pankration from the age of a toddler. After winning gold at the World Athlima Pangration Federation Championships, she dedicated her training to MMA in 2013.

Career brief: One Championship signed Angela from a 3-0 amateur record, and she made her pro debut in 2015. She won with 5 submissions in a row, caught the eye of the international scene, and then fought V.V Mei Yamaguchi for the inaugural One Championship strawweight title, winning in what was considered one of the best fights of the year. Angela defended the belt twice, defeating Jenny Huang by dominating TKO in the third round, and submitting Istella Nunes with an anaconda.

2017-18: During the Awards period, Angela was in a car accident that halted her career. She made a full recovery, and was finally able to successfully defended her One Championship title once. She rematched V.V Mei, and again Angela walked away with the decision victory.

Video: One Championship Unstoppable Dreams: Angela Lee defeats Mei Yamaguchi by Unanimous Decision

Xiong jing nan wmma
Xiong Jingnan, Female Fighter of the Year nominee

Xiong Jing Nan 熊竞楠

Title: One Championship Strawweight Champion

Background: Xiong is 30 years old. She is from Shandong, China and fights out of Phuket Top Team and Fighting Empire. As a teenager, she started in weightlifting and boxing. Xiong medaled in provincial and national boxing competitions in 2007-8. In 2013 she began training MMA when it started becoming well-known where she was at.

Career brief: Xiong went pro in the same year she transitioned to MMA, winning her first bout in 2013. In 2014-16, she fought in Kunlun and achieved an almost perfect record of 9-1 with the promotion, with her first bout as a rookie against Lena Ovchynnikova showing a surprising grappling game en route to a win. Xiong’s only loss was a decision to the very experienced Colleen Schneider. In China, Xiong became known as a superior grappler in women’s MMA, even though most of her wins were by knockout.

2017-18: During the Awards period, Xiong signed to One Championship and went 3-0, earning a title in the process. In her first fight, she destroyed April Osenio. Xiong fought Tiffany Teo for the inaugural strawweight belt and won it with a fourth round KO. She defended it successfully against Laura Balin in a five-round war by unanimous decision.

Video: One Championship Kings of Courage: Xiong Jingnan defeats Tiffany Teo by TKO

Zhang Weili wmma
Zhang Weili, Female Fighter of the Year nominee

Zhang Weili 张伟丽

Title: Kunlun Strawweight Champion, Top FC Strawweight Champion

Background: Zhang is 29 years old. She is from Hebei, China and fights out of the Black Tiger MMA Club. In high school, she began training and competing in sanda, and become a champion provincially and nationally. In 2012, she started to train BJJ and MMA because many of her teammates were doing it.

Career brief: In 2013, Zhang lost her first MMA bout. Since, then, she has never been defeated. After winning in the 2014 CKF Tournament, she signed with Kunlun and picked up 5 wins – 4 knockouts, 1 submission – to earn a shot at the strawweight title. She beat Maira Mazar to win it, and defended successfully by KOing Karla Benitez. Next, Zhang tested the waters at flyweight, and knocked out Simon Duarte to claim her second Kunlun title.

2017-18: During the Awards period, Zhang went 4-0. She defended her Kunlun strawweight title thrice, decisioning Aline Sattelmeyer and submitting her teammate Bianca, and knocking out Marilla Santos. She also claimed the Top FC strawweight belt by finishing Seo Ye-Dam. Zhang was set to face Kanako Murata in Rizin when an injury was announced, and subsequently she signed with the UFC, to make her promotional debut in August.

Video: Kunlun highlights: Zhang Weili