It’s an exciting time for women’s MMA in Asia.
From Singapore to Japan, Thailand and Korea, women are now headlining the biggest cards, garnering the most attention and putting on some of the most exciting displays of martial arts.
Later this month that momentum will continue when Angela Lee steps into the ONE Championship cage to defend her atomweight title for the second time in 2017.
Lee is due to face unbeaten Brazilian knockout artist Istela Nunes in the main event of ONE: Dynasty of Heroes, marking a rapid turn around for the 20-year-old Lee, fresh from a successful title defence against Jenny Huang in Bangkok in March.
Lee vs Nunes is also the first of several high-profile women’s title fights taking place across Asia over the next three months, cementing women’s MMA as one of the fastest-growing and most exciting areas of the industry.
Today women are not just participating in the sport of mixed martial arts, but in most cases leading it.
Nowhere is this more evident than in Asia, where the likes of Angela Lee, Ham Seo-Hee, Ann Osman, Mei Yamaguchi and Syuri Kondo are among the biggest names in the sport.
A new generation of female fighters are also forging their own path, including Singapore’s Tiffany Teo, the 16-year-old Thai fighter Sunisa Srisan, Rika “Tiny Doll” Ishige, plus Japan’s “King” Reina Miura.
So if you love WMMA as much as we do, here’s what you should be watching over the next few months.
ONE: Dynasty of Heroes is the fourth event for ONE Championship in 2017. It is also the second event to be headlined by “Unstoppable” Angela Lee. Lee is currently undefeated in her MMA career, racking up seven consecutive wins since her first bout with ONE in May 2015. Istela Nunes, a two-time Muay Thai world champion with an unblemished professional record of five wins, also holds a win over Yamaguchi. While these two unbeaten heroines are set to do battle on Friday, 26 May, the truth is they have quite a lot in common. They both want to be positive role models, they both come from strong families and both their parents got them both started on their respective martial arts journeys.
Pancrase continues its busy 2017 schedule and returns on 28 May for a blockbuster card. Among the two titles, Pancrase will crown its first women’s strawweight champion, when Syuri Kondo (4-0) meets Brazilian Kinberly Tanaka Novaes (9-2). Kondo, a decorated pro wrestler, is flawless in all her appearances in the Pancrase cage. She has a background in karate but her bread and butter is kickboxing and Shoot Boxing. Her most impressive performance came last November at Pancrase 282 where she TKO’d Sharma Devaiah in the first round with devastating skill and conviction.
Ham Seo-Hee (17-8) is a veteran of women’s MMA in Asia. She made her professional debut 10 years ago at Deep 28 Impact against Hisae Watanabe and won by decision. Ham has fought the best in the 48 and 52kg divisions, against the likes of Mei Yamaguchi, Emi Fujino, Naho Sugiyama, Megumi Fujii and Ayaka Hamasaki. She became the Deep Jewels Featherweight Champion and was picked up by the UFC, making history as the first female fighter from South Korea in the promotion. Finally, Ham will be fighting for her first title on home soil in ROAD FC. Kurobe Mina (10-2) is the current DEEP Jewels atomweight Champion. Having fought exclusively in Jewels since her relatively late start to MMA in 2012, she’s racked up an impressive career and set her self to be top 10 in the world for female atomweights.
While not a title fight, UFC is doing its part to promote women’s MMA, lining up an exciting bantamweight headline bout for its return to Singapore on 17 June. After a brief move to the women’s featherweight division, Holly Holm returns to the UFC’s bantamweight division to face Brazilian striker Bethe Correia in the main event of UFC Fight Night 111 in Singapore. Holm (10-3) will be looking to turn around a three-fight losing streak, most recently to Germaine de Randamie for the women’s featherweight title at UFC 208 in February.