Michelle Nicolini bounced back in a big way, pulling off an upset victory over atomweight titleholder Angela Lee in the co-main event of ONE: ‘Masters of Destiny’.

In front of a packed crowd at the Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the multiple-time Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion put on a grappling clinic, overwhelming the 23-year-old Singaporean superstar in their three-round strawweight showdown to notch a unanimous decision win.

Operating behind her impeccable ground game, Nicolini was in constant pursuit of takedowns from the get-go, preventing Lee from dictating the tempo of the bout in the stand-up exchanges.

Grappling brilliance

Although Lee managed to reverse the position and tried to stay active on top by raining down blows, the craftiness of Nicolini’s butterfly guard made the atomweight queen hesitant to pass her defense or fish for submission attempts.

In the second round, Nicolini wasted little time in getting the action to the ground and gave Lee no room to breathe, preventing the latter from mounting any offense while moving into a more dominant position.

Nicolini’s grappling brilliance was written all over the third and final round as she held Lee hostage with an inside cradle and then applied a knee-to-belly maneuver for good measure.

Lee tried her best to create openings to return to her feet, but Nicolini easily denied most of her efforts and scooped her back to the canvas.

Desperate attempt

In a desperate effort to turn things around in the dying seconds of the bout, Lee was able to put herself on the back of Nicolini and quickly gripped her opponent’s neck for a crank.

However, it was too late for the ONE women’s atomweight champion as the bell sounded and signified the end of the round.

After three rounds of relentless grappling exchanges, all judges at ringside awarded the victory in favor of Nicolini, who redeemed herself with a huge win after losing to Singapore’s Tiffany Teo last November.

The win over Lee improves her win-loss record to 6-2. On the other hand, Lee drops to 9-2 and suffers her second-straight loss.

Lee’s next assignment is in Tokyo, Japan on October 13, defending her atomweight belt against strawweight titlist Xiong Jing Nan in a rematch. It remains to be seen if ONE Championship will pull the plug on that match-up after Lee’s disappointing setback to Nicolini.

Comeback king

In other MMA matches on the card, Malaysian-Kiwi Ev Ting (17-2) turned in a come from behind performance against former welterweight King of Pancrase Daichi Abe (6-4) in their lightweight clash.

Ting had to weather an early onslaught from Abe in order to gain momentum in the second round, where he forced his Japanese counterpart to tap with a deep rear-naked choke.

ONE: ‘Masters of Destiny’, July 12th, Kuala Lumpur
Michelle Nicolini def. Angela Lee via Decision (Unanimous)
Ev Ting def. Daichi Abe via submission (rear-naked choke) at 4:44 of R2
Gurdarshan Mangat def. Abro Fernandes via Decision (Unanimous)
Jihin Radzuan def. Jomary Torres via Submission (Triangle Choke) at 3:07 of round one
Kickboxing: Troy Worthen def. Chen Rui via TKO (Punches) at 3:29 of R2
Kickboxing: Hiroki Akimoto def. Kenny Tse via Decision (Unanimous)
Kickboxing: Janet Todd def. Kai Ting Chuang via Decision (Majority)
Dae Sung Park def. Kimihiro Eto by TKO (Punches) at 1:59 of R2
Aleksi Toivonen def. Akihiro Fujisawa via Submission (Rear-Naked Choke) at 3:27 of R1
Muay Thai: Mohammed Bin Mahmoud def. Saiful Merican via Decision (Unanimous)
Adrian Mattheis def. Zhe Li via TKO (strikes) at 1:51 of R2
Bozhena Antoniyar def. Bi Nguyen via Decision (Split)
Muay Thai: Sorgraw Petchyindeeacademy def. George Mann via Decision (Split)
Kickboxing: Josh Tonna def. Yoshihisa Morimoto via Decision (Unanimous)