"The Panda" Xiong Jing Nan has enjoyed a lengthy reign as ONE Championship's strawweight MMA queen, and she's on the verge of clearing out the entire division.
Since claiming the inaugural ONE women's strawweight world title in January 2018, the Chinese superstar has valiantly defended her crown six times – and has been dominant in most of those showings.
Most recently, Xiong nullified the grappling-heavy game plan of Japanese judoka Ayaka "Zombie" Miura and battered her with strikes en route to a unanimous decision victory at "ONE: Heavy Hitters" in January
Now, as ONE Championship gears up for the second half of its 2022 event schedule, "The Panda" is looking to get back inside the ONE circle soon. With that in mind, here are three potential opponents for her return to action.
This past April at ONE 156, Dayane "Day Monster" Cardoso entered the ONE women's strawweight world title mix with an impressive promotional debut.
The Brazilian slugger brilliantly defended Miura's trademark scarf-hold Americana submission a couple of times in the first round, confidently grappled with the Japanese ground ace, and even landed some of her dangerous right hands.
Ultimately, "Day Monster" earned a TKO victory in the second round.
A win over the division's most recent world title challenger has certainly raised Cardoso's stock, and it might even land her a shot at the indomitable strawweight queen.
From a stylistic standpoint, this matchup would undoubtedly thrill from beginning to end. Both Cardoso and Xiong own respectable ground games, but the two absolutely love to throw leather, so fans could expect a firefight.
Nobody has pushed "The Panda" to her limit more than ONE women's atomweight world champion "Unstoppable" Angela Lee.
When these two originally met for Xiong's strawweight gold at "ONE: A New Era" in March 2019, the Singaporean-American had her rival in all sorts of trouble – especially in the fourth round when Lee nearly submitted Xiong with a reverse triangle choke and an armbar.
But the Chinese superstar weathered the storm, came back in the fifth stanza with a rattling shot to the ribs, and then overwhelmed "Unstoppable" with punches and kicks to get the TKO.
Xiong then moved down to challenge Lee for the atomweight gold at "ONE: Century" in October 2019 with the hope of becoming a two-division ONE world champion.
However, the Singaporean-American used her Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt expertise to submit the strawweight queen with just 12 seconds remaining in the final frame.
After a pair of five-round wars, everyone is craving a trilogy – including Lee. It would be quite the spectacle if these two megastars settle their unfinished business while still in their primes.
One of the most prodigious athletes in the world’s largest martial arts organization is 17-year-old sensation Smilla Sundell.
The Swedish teenager stopped Australian hard-hitter Diandra Martin at "ONE: Full Circle" this past February and then ripped through American star Jackie Buntan at ONE 156 in April to claim the inaugural ONE women's strawweight muay Thai world title.
By doing so, Sundell became the youngest ONE world champion in history and established herself as one of the most dangerous female strikers on the planet.
Similarly, Xiong is widely considered one of the most lethal knockout artists in women's MMA and formerly competed for the Chinese national boxing team.
Perhaps "The Panda" would be interested in testing her skills against Sundell in a special rules superfight, much like the one between muay Thai megastar Rodtang Jitmuangnon and MMA GOAT Demetrious Johnson at ONE X in March.
That unique contest created a lot of excitement, and there's no doubt that Xiong vs. Sundell would be plenty entertaining.
This story originally published at ONEFC.com.