• Xiong Jing Nan is ready for the grappling game of Michelle Nicolini
  • "The Panda" considers Nicolini a tougher challenge than Angela Lee on the ground
  • Xiong is also expecting Nicolini to demonstrate an improved striking

Xiong Jing Nan’s march to capturing the ONE Championship women’s strawweight title was marked by a methodical approach to the puzzle that is mixed martial arts.

With 17 professional bouts under her belt, “The Panda” has a strong awareness of herself in combat, bringing mental tranquility to the athlete as she prepares to fight Michelle Nicolini in the main event at ONE: Empower, airing live this Friday, September 3 from the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

Although the path of least resistance means avoiding the ground with the IBJJF Hall of Famer, a stronger and more powerful Xiong maintains confidence in her own grappling abilities.

“I don’t think there’s a massive gap between me and Nicolini [on the ground],” said Xiong, who won her professional debut via armbar in 2014.

“She must have been developing her striking game in her camp too, both punches and kicks. A truly great fighter is non-stop looking for a better version of herself or himself, that’s what I believe.”

The champion doubled down, explaining that she does not fear grappling with Nicolini.

Xiong teased at a new version of “The Panda,” one which she believes will thrive in every aspect of combat.

While her extensive background in boxing lends itself to ample knockout opportunities, Xiong knows there’s more than one way to crack an egg.

“I enjoy a KO win, but I’m looking forward to her dragging me to the canvas, then I can show off my improved ground power. Like I said, an updated, latest version of the Kung Fu Panda, Xiong Jing Nan,” she stated.

Xiong pointed to the lessons she learned in her second fight with atomweight queen Angela Lee, in which the Chinese athlete lost due to a fifth round rear-naked choke.

“The Panda” explained that she became overconfident—even smug—in her ability to land heavy shots on the feet, which led to a lack of training in the grappling department.

The 33-year-old intends to learn from her mistake and never repeat it.

Xiong’s coaching staff has studied Nicolini’s preferred methods of attack and tailored their preparation accordingly.

In the lead-up to her meeting with Nicolini—the fifth defense of her world title, she has spent more time than ever on the mat, preparing for the best version of the grappling ace.

“Nicolini is way more experienced [in grappling] than Angela Lee, I know I must be more careful and detailed against her. I’ve been improving my wrestling and grappling, I’ve put tons of work on my ground game. Now I’m confident that I’m great at both stand-up fighting and ground control,” Xiong shared.

“She’s no doubt a tough opponent. She's an eight-time BJJ World Champion. Each fighter has their very own special weapon and no one can imitate that. It’s not gonna be an easy fight, I bet. But the harder the fight is, the more excited I will be.”