MANILA, Philippines -- Despite being the top-ranked contender in ONE Championship's atomweight division, Filipina fighter Denice Zamboanga will arguably be the underdog in her first round match in the upcoming ONE Atomweight Grand Prix.
The 24-year-old Zamboanga will be taking on Korean veteran Seo Hee Ham in the first round, scheduled for May 28 for ONE: Empower, an all-female fight card set for the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
Ham has been fighting since 2007, and has had stints all over the world -- from the UFC to Road FC to Rizin. She was Rizin's atomweight champion before agreeing to sign with ONE Championship, and will now be one of eight women looking to earn a shot at reigning atomweight queen Angela Lee.
Zamboanga, 10 years younger than Ham, says with no hesitation that this will be "the biggest challenge" of her career so far, and definitely her toughest match in the Grand Prix.
"For me, getting Seo Hee Ham in the first round for this Grand Prix, I think this is the biggest challenge that I'm gonna face in this tournament," she said during a recent media call.
"She's a well-rounded fighter, she's very good with her hands," noted the Filipina. "She's a southpaw."
"I don't have much experience fighting southpaws."
Ham will bring a six-fight winning streak into the match; according to Tapology, she hasn't lost since November 2016, when she bowed to Danielle Taylor via split decision in a UFC Fight Night event.
Zamboanga is 7-0 in her career and is coming off an impressive victory over Watsapinya Kaewkhong in August, wherein she won via submission in the first round. Against an opponent who has 31 fights under her belt, Zamboanga says she will focus on her game plan to try and neutralize Ham's considerable advantage in experience.
"I just focus on my game plan," she said. "Most of my opponents… they are also experienced fighters, and I'm always (the) underdog. So for this match-up, I really don't look at her experience, her background."
If Zamboanga gets past Ham, she will face either Alyona Rassohyna or her good friend, Stamp Fairtex, in the semifinals. Regardless of who makes it out of that match, Zamboanga is confident that neither can be as tough as Ham.
"In this match-up, if I win this fight, the next fight will be easier for me," she said. "I think this will prove that I really deserve to fight the atomweight champion."
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