In fact, as you will see in just a few minutes, there were more honorable mentions this month than there has been in every other previous Fight of the Month discussion in 2018.
The month opened with a fun back-and-forth battle in Russia between Azam Gaforov and Nicolas Varela under the WFCA banner, and a fun scrap in New York that same evening between Jacob Bohn and Kenny Foster under the CES banner.
Closing out the month we saw excellent battles such as Makwan Amirkhani vs. Jason Knight in Liverpool, and Jae-Woong Kim going to war with Han-Guk Jung in South Korea at Top FC 18.
There were a plethora of excellent fights in between. The best fight of May actually came mid-way through the month. And it featured two women who have consistently proven how exciting they are.
Angela Lee vs. Mei Yamaguchi II
If you are looking for a fight to showcase exactly why MMA is fantastic, look no further than May 19, 2018. It was on this day that ONE Championship: Unstoppable Dreams took place in Singapore.
The main event featured one of the hottest prospects and commodities in MMA today, as 21-year-old Angela Lee looked to defend her title against 35-year-old veteran Mei Yamaguchi.
Despite her age, the strawweight champion had already defended the title twice previously. This after winning the vacant strap in an absolute classic against, you guessed it, Mei Yamaguchi. Check out that fight here. You will not regret it.
So given what they were able to do in their first meeting, one would assume their second would be quite good. Of course. But it somehow lived up to all expectations and then some. Putting it right on par with their first meeting, which was a Fight of the Year contender in 2016.
Two years ago we saw a grappling masterclass from both women, but considering both have been putting in work with their striking as of late, there was no telling what the rematch would offer.
Lee took to the center immediately, seemingly very interested in working her striking game early. But Yamaguchi wasn’t phased. After some work along the fence from Lee, the two began to exchange some nice strikes on the feet. This was surprising to some considering both are primarily known for their grappling.
Tired of having her back against the fence, Yamaguchi used her lateral movement to get out of the disadvantageous position. Working her jab while sidestepping to the right until she and Lee were both closer to the center.
Mei was able to tag Angela with a nice two-piece, but it left her mostly unphased. Yamaguchi stayed on her toes and kept moving, but Lee remained the aggressor. She used her leg kicks wisely throughout the first four minutes. And after landing one late in the round, she attempted to flurry with punches before Yamaguchi shot in for the takedown. It was avoided and allowed Lee to get Yamaguchi’s back against the fence again where she started to land a few nice strikes.
Mei Yamaguchi promptly turned Lee around and finally get her own dominant position along the fence.
Before the round came to an end, Lee was able to reverse the position once more to turn Yamaguchi back to the cage. This before being split up and in striking range for the final ten or so seconds.
In round two, Angela Lee continued working her leg kicks while Yamaguchi fired off 1-2 combinations. Until about 50-seconds into the round where, finally, the fight hits the mat as Lee gets a trip takedown. Two years ago, these two were magic on the mat together. And we get our first glimpse of that in the rematch just under six minutes into the contest.
After about two minutes of working on the ground, Angela Lee began to posture up and throw an abundance of shots at Mei Yamaguchi. Amidst the flurry of punches directed to the head and body, Yamaguchi threw her legs up. Looking to lock up an armbar or a potential triangle.
Lee was wise to this and she instead stepped over Yamaguchi as she began to roll backward out of the bottom position. This then puts Lee in a dominant back position looking at a potential armbar of her own.
That is exactly what happened, as Angela Lee began to hunt for an armbar herself. Except, unlike Yamaguchi, she was able to successfully fully lock in the armbar. The Japanese fighter was in serious danger for the better part of a minute, but she was able to escape and managed to get in her own dominant top position.
Mei Yamaguchi maintained top position for the final minute of the round before the bell sounded signifying they were heading to a round three.
About ten seconds into the round, Lee fired off another leg kick that was caught by Yamaguchi who responded with an overhand right. After some nice striking exchanges for two minutes, Yamaguchi caught another kick from Lee, this time countering with a straight-right.
The punch dropped Lee but not for long. A brief scramble on the ground results in the much larger Lee getting back to her feet and pressing Yamaguchi’s back against the fence.
After some clinch work along the fence from the champion, the two separate to strike once again.
As Yamaguchi began to find some success with her right hand, Lee once again bullied her along the fence before securing another takedown with 90-seconds remaining in the round. After about a minute of securing position, eventually finding back mount, Lee began to unleash big elbows and punches on Yamaguchi before securing a rear naked choke in the dying seconds of round three.
Luckily for Yamaguchi, there was not much time to work. So she survived the round, meaning the two head into championship rounds – yet again.
The two spent a lot of time in round four working from the feet. Each lady had their moments, but in the final two minutes of the round, things became interesting. Yet again Lee looked to work her leg kicks, but Yamaguchi managed to catch one.
Similar to round three, as she caught the kick, she unleashed a few short right hands to drop Lee once again. This time the scramble didn’t end with Lee pushing Yamaguchi against the fence. Instead, Yamaguchi was finally able to maintain top position.
One again, Yamaguchi stayed in top position until the end of the round. Meaning that these two are going to the final round for the second time with one another.
Things became intense immediately in round five. Ten seconds into the final round, Lee fired off a body kick. The challenger caught the kick with ease and connected on a right headkick to drop the champion. Yamaguchi was relentless here as she charged at Lee with punches before scooping her up for a double leg slam.
After securing quite arguably the most significant moment of the fight in the first 15-seconds of round five, Yamaguchi was able to do some work from top position. Landing short shots and denying every attempt from Lee to stand, sweep, or lock in a submission for nearly four minutes.
In the final minute of the fight, Lee began to use the cage in order to get back to her feet. Yamaguchi didn’t make this easy, though, as she fired off right hands on Lee.
With less than one minute remaining in the fight, the crowd is beyond fired up. Early on, it was because of them wanting the Canadian-born Singaporean fighter Angela Lee to secure the victory. But down the stretch, it seems to be due to the fact they are witnessing a wild battle between these two exciting fighters.
Mei Yamaguchi forces another scramble in the final ten seconds before the buzzer sounds. And that is it. Twenty-five minutes on that night, and 25-minutes in 2016. These two have fought for nearly one hour combined, and every second of it has been thrilling.
They head to the judges’ scorecards, and Angela Lee earns the nod on all three. She remains the ONE Women’s Strawweight Champion. Making the third defense of her title, and improves to a cool 9-0 at just 21-years-old.
Japanese veteran Mei Yamaguchi drops to 17-11-1 despite giving champion Angela Lee all she could handle on two separate occasions now.
Check out the full recap and highlights courtesy of ONE Championship here
Before diving into the biggest list of honorable mentions for Fight of the Month yet, let’s look at the three best fights of the month. Of course, this is completely subjective!
1. Angela Lee vs. Mei Yamaguchi
ONE: Unstoppable Dreams
2. Kai Asakura vs. Manel Kape
3. Jae-Woong Kim vs. Han-Guk Jung
TOP FC 18
Be sure to check out these 20 honorable mentions, as well! Some fantastic fights here. Majority of which flew under the radar big time. Also, check out April 2018’s Fight of the Month courtesy of Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje.
- WFCA 48 | Azam Gaforov vs. Nicolas Varela
- CES NY 1 | Jacob Bohn vs. Kenny Foster
- LFA 39 | Maycee Barber vs. Audrey Perkins
- TKO 43 | Jesse Arnett vs. Sebastian Ruiz (Championship)
- ACB 86 | Yusup Raisov vs. Marat Balaev II (Championship)
- RIZIN 10 | Yusuke Yachi vs. Diego Nunes
- ONE: Grit and Glory | Yoshitaka Naito vs. Alex Silva II (Championship)
- BAMMA 35 | Kiefer Crosbie vs. Josh Plant
- UFC 224 | Kelvin Gastelum vs. Jacare Souza
- UFC 224 | John Lineker vs. Brian Kelleher
- ONE: Unstoppable Dreams | Amir Khan vs. Sung Jong Lee
- Alaska FC 140 | Carlton Minus vs. Justin Buchholz
- ACB 87 | Dean Garnett vs. Dominique Wooding
- FNG 87 | Alexnder Shabliy vs. Adriano Martins
- UFC FN 129 | Alexandre Pantoja vs. Brandon Moreno
- UFC FN 129 | Andrea Lee vs. Veronica Macedo
- Pancrase 296 | Rafael Silva vs. Maskatsu Ueda II (Championship)
- EFC Worldwide 70 | Amanda Lino vs. Rizlen Zouak (Championship)
- UFC FN 130 | Makwan Amirkhani vs. Jason Knight