By Dan Paulo Errazo
For Gina “Conviction” Iniong, winning her next bout against Malaysia’s Jihin “Shadow Cat” Radzuan at ONE: CLASH OF LEGENDS is but another crucial task she needs to check off in order for her to reach her ultimate goal — to win the ONE World Title.
Ever since her Team Lakay stablemates brought home prestigious ONE World Titles to Baguio City, Philippines, where she is a native, Iniong too felt the urge to feel the golden strap around her waist and bring pride to her country.
However, as is the case in combat sports, things are easier said than done. The bout with Radzuan, which takes place this Saturday, 16 February in Bangkok, Thailand, is against an undefeated Malaysian who has beaten some of the top contenders in the women’s atomweight division in just a short period of time, contenders like Priscilla “Thathie” Hertati Lumban Gaol and Jenny “Lady Gogo” Huang.
Being a professional mixed martial artist for almost nine years, Iniong knows that the key to defeating a fellow top contender is to acknowledge their strengths and work on a strategy to overcome those.
“What I know of Jihin Radzuan is she is well-rounded,” says Iniong.
“Her ground game is good. I watched her last fight, and I was really amazed with her last performance.”
Despite being known first and foremost as a dangerous grappler with elite-level Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills in her repertoire, Radzuan is also a striker with an extensive background in wushu and Muay Thai. Iniong knows this and is preparing for all that Radzuan brings to the table.
“Some athletes are focused on striking only, while others only focus on whatever other aspects they are good at, like their ground game,” explains Iniong.
“But you can see that Jihin’s striking and ground game are both very good.”
In order to achieve victory, Team Lakay head coach Mark Sangiao has been closely monitoring Iniong’s training camp, working on both her offensive and defensive skills on the feet and on the ground.
Despite understanding full well the extent of Radzuan’s capabilities, Iniong feels she still owns the advantage in the striking department.
“Jihin’s weakness is her striking,” she states.
“My game plan in our bout is, if we end up striking, we will strike with each other. If we end up in the ground, I will also play on the ground.
“I trained very hard for this fight. I really prepared, and I am determined to win.”
Working on a sound game plan to bring into the bout, Iniong says that her knowledge and experience is one of the major factors that will contribute to her victory.
Joshua “The Passion” Pacio and Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio both submitted their titles early on this year in heartbreaking losses, and Iniong vows not to start the year off in the same way. She looks to capture a belt of her own, and is eyeing a shot at the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Title if she gets past Radzuan.
“My first impression of Jihin is that she is humble and a good sport, but I think she should watch out for me. I think I have the edge in experience.” says the 29-year-old.
“I predict that our match will end in the second round through ground and pound. I get my strength from seeing my teammates and my seniors with their own belts. I am the only one who is yet to have one, so I am really envious!”
With a stringent goal in sight and support from her teammates and coach at Team Lakay, fans can only expect that Iniong will bring her best into the ring this Saturday night.
“My ultimate goal is to also become a champion and become the pride of Baguio City. We don’t have a female champion yet, particularly in mixed martial arts,” Iniong concluded.