Jihin Radzuan earned the biggest win of her MMA career at ONE X, and she hopes the momentum from her recent hot streak will propel her toward the peak of the women's atomweight division.
The Malaysian phenom faced off against Itsuki Hirata at the organization's 10-year anniversary showcase last month, with many pundits favoring the then-undefeated Japanese star.
For her part, Hirata declared that she wouldn't have any issues defeating the fighter nicknamed "Shadow Cat," but that statement backfired drastically.
Across three hard-fought rounds, Jihin extinguished her rival's judo tricks with impressive escapes while dominating both the striking and grappling departments.
That earned her a decision win from the judges and handed the Tokyo native her first professional loss – a huge accomplishment for the 23-year-old.
"I didn't hold any grudge, nor did I have anything against her when she told me stuff like she's going to kill me or what, because I think she said that out (for) publicity or (used it as) ways to promote the fight during the Japan press conference," Radzuan said.
"Of course, the win was even more significant because a lot of people claim that she's (one of the best), and I showed people that this wasn't the case."
Radzuan reflects on win over Hirata at ONE X
Following their contest, Jihin could have fired back with comments of her own, but she chose to remain humble.
The young Malaysian believes it was enough to let her performance do the talking – and it certainly spoke volumes at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
"For me, right, actions are more important than words," Radzuan said. "I don't have to explain to people that I'm going to shut her down in the ONE circle or what. I just let my effort, strategy, and the win answer it."
"We (Ultimate MMA Head Coach Melvin Yeoh and Jihin) already expected what she was going to do, and we put high effort (and focus) on preparing for her. We never took her as an easy task."
Radzuan expects tougher challenges after cracking top-5 rankings
Radzuan's remarkable display against Hirata earned her the No. 5 contender spot in ONE Championship's stacked atomweight division.
It was her third consecutive victory following triumphs over savvy veterans Mei "V.V" Yamaguchi and Bi "Killer Bee" Nguyen, and the Malaysian expects an even more difficult assignment moving forward.
Some potential options are a matchup with #4-ranked contender Alyona Rassohyna or a chance to settle the score with #3-ranked Denice "Lycan Queen" Zamboanga.
But regardless of who she faces, "Shadow Cat" wants to prove that she's indeed one of the brightest young stars in mixed martial arts today.
"I can't beg for respect from people, but what I can do is to continuously prove them wrong in the circle," Jihin added. "Given now that I'm in the top-five rankings, I'm not far from the belt fight. So I think in about four or five fights, more people can start acknowledging and respecting my skills."
This story first published at ONEFC.com.