During Denice Zamboanga’s journey in chasing for the title currently possessed by Angela Lee, she made at least two major claims that got her rivals’ ire.
They sounded like arrogant trashtalking, they might as well be, that her rivals have to answer back with smack talk of their own.
(1) She was unwilling to accept defeat in her last bout against “Arale Chan” Seo Hee Ham, victor of their ONE Women’s Atomweight World Grand Prix quarterfinals last September 3, 2021.
“I reviewed my fight, she didn’t do anything. I had control, I even took her striking. I still can’t believe it. For me I clearly won the fight unanimously. To be honest, I can’t accept it and I’m quite disappointed with the judges’ decision”, she declared after the fight.
Her statement must have gotten in the nerves of Ham as evidenced by her reply: “In my opinion I think she should go and study the rules first, because if she knows the rules from the start to the end, I believe she would agree I won the fight. I really don’t understand why this is causing some controversy. Just look at our faces. Faces speak the result”.
(2) She asked Lee, the reigning and only ONE Women’s Strawweight Champion ever, to voluntarily vacate her title and not wait for ONE to strip her of it in view of a lengthy absence under legit circumstances:
“She made her choice to become a mother. However, she has to do the respectable thing and vacate the championship belt. She shouldn’t wait for the organization to ask her. In a world-class organization, when the champion is unable to defend their title for any personal reason, that title will become vacant and top fighters will get the chance to compete for that title.” said Zamboanga back in November, 2020.
Zamboang’s words definitely got Lee’s ire because despite ONE Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong’s holding the ONE Atomweight World Grand Prix to determine the challenger for her title, she still fired shots to the top contender then and now.
“I don’t think [beating Mei Yamaguchi] qualifies her to be the number one contender. The other girls that she fought were not even ranked. The atomweight division is stacked with at least 10 top talents,” Lee fired then.
“Honestly, I just feel like she is coming off as a little bit entitled. She’s telling everyone that she was the number one contender. Really, that’s because she beat Mei [Yamaguchi]. But honestly, besides that, she hasn’t beaten anyone,” Lee concluded recently.
Ham and Lee may not like it but Zamboanga is on solid grounds when she claimed these.
Firstly, she is not alone in strongly feeling she had the Ham fight in the bag. Many MMA fans had her back, including this writer.
I had her winning because she controlled the action throughout the fight and, contrary to Ham’s opinion that she had to execute the takedown beause she ws trailiong in the scorecards, the thundering takedown towards the end of Round Three was a punctuation mark to seal the deal.
Their bout reminded me of the Eduard Folayang-Zhang Lipeng matchup.
Zhang repeatedly took down Folayang to the mat in the first round and proceeded to control the bout from dominant position, along with continuous dishing of ground and pound.
The two went back and forth the next two rounds, with Folayang connecting better and defending well against the Chinese’s takedowns. Zhang my have the edge up to the final minute of the third but there wasn’t a clear winner until Zhang drove a masterful takedown inside 30 seconds, lifting Folayang in the air before throwing him down to the mat and finishing in dominant position, to quash any doubts on who won the fight and seal the deal.
The Zambonga-Ham fight eerily unfolded in similar manner. The only difference was Zamboanga did the controlling of the action with grappling and punctuating it with a masterful slam in the third round.
What caused the reversal of decisions is mystifying in my opinion.
As to her request of vacating the crown, I get her point.
No matter who she had beaten, her being the top contender for the title was never in question. This was validated by ONE Championship’s first ever Official Rankings released in April, 2020 naming her #1 contender, a position she yet to relinquish.
Her opportunity to cash in was imminent then as ONE was penciling a much clamored showdown to happen late 2020 or early 2021 for the belt until Lee’s pregnancy put kibosh to the bout and the subsequent installation of a much, much tougher route just to have an opportunity challenge for the crown.
It was but natural for Zamboanga to feel her MMA success was being held hostage by something that cannot be resolved in the Circle, thus, the callout.
In both circumstances, the “Lycan Queen” backed up her talk. She may have sounded arrogant, disrespectful and entitled, but she has evidences that her talk wasn’t just smack.
By Armando M. Bolislis