PhotoCred: Instagram - @chinatopteam

Yan Xiaonan sees Marina Rodriguez fight as potential return to contention

Yan Xiaonan tasted defeat for the first time in over a decade when colliding with Carla Esparza in May 2021.

The second-round TKO loss acted as a good learning lesson for the Shenyang, Liaoning native. With her first appearance of 2022 now set, Yan knows it’s not the end of the world.

“I was too rushed to finish the fight when it started. That was one mistake,” Yan told My MMA News. “Secondly, I was a little overconfident in my takedown defense. But everybody is improving. Carla is training very hard as well so I was a little bit overconfident in my takedown defense. Thirdly, losing a fight is not that terrible. It’s just an experience. We are all athletes so a loss is just a hill you need to climb and overcome.”

Yan took her talents stateside where she trained with Sacramento’s Team Alpha Male ahead of her tilt with the former UFC champion. It only made sense for the Sanda-based competitor to sharpen her grappling prowess going forward. To start the new year, Yan has continued doing so as she intends to remain in the U.S. for all of 2022.

The loss was an eye-opening one. Admitting to overconfidence, now having the proof has only made Yan want to continue strengthening her abilities on the ground. There are worse options to choose from than the aid of Urijah Faber and company, after all.

“They have helped me improve a lot,” Yan said of her current team. “Before I trained at Team Alpha Male, my wrestling and my jiu-jitsu were two separate things. They have helped me mix them up to become one thing. [Faber] is a person I respect a lot. Every morning he comes to the gym very early and basically, he helps each fighter who has an upcoming fight. He helps everyone so he is a very nice coach and after training, he is a very funny guy. He always makes jokes with us because all we Chinese fighters are together so he says we are like a small Chinatown in the gym.

“I think the volume of training in China is more than here [in the U.S.], we train more every day in China. But in the U.S., we train less but the coaches really care about your condition. Physically, mentally, and how much training you should do today. In the U.S., I think coaches here are more focused on the technique and details, and there are many very successful former UFC fighters who now become coaches and share their technique, skill, and experience with us. But in China, basically all the top-level UFC fighters, they are still active.”

PhotoCred: Asian MMA

Among the best of the best representing China remains the 32-year-old Yan who sits at No. 4 in the UFC’s 115-pound strawweight rankings. At UFC 272 on March 5, “Fury” expects to rebound when battling with a fellow intimidating striker, Brazil’s Marina Rodriguez.

Rodriguez was on the shortlist of nominees for 2021’s fighter of the year after stringing together three big victories. One spot above Yan at No. 3, Rodriguez has expressed her excitement for a matchup with the Sanda expert in the past. Yan too was elated to get the offer.

A three-fight win streak snapping victory would be just what the doctor ordered to return to immediate title contention.

“Basically all the fighters ranked ahead of me were not available,” Yan said. “Finally, I got Marina who is one rank above me so I was very happy. We are both strikers so our fight is maybe the fight to decide the best striker in our division. I am very excited to fight against her. We will see who can do more with their variation and techniques in the cage.

“If I’m able to win, I can get back to being a contender again so I have to grab this opportunity and take the victory to get one more step closer to the belt again.”

Yan is aware that she still has plenty to accomplish in the sport. But just knowing that she’s a legitimate MMA fighter at the highest level is an accomplishment to be proud of.

The ultimate goal, as it is for many, is to become a champion – the path back toward achieving that goal starts at UFC 272. May the best striker win.

“I’m really proud of being a real MMA fighter and my parents can watch my fights on the television and tell their friends ‘Hey, this is my daughter. This is my girl,'” Yan expressed with a smile.

“I think this fight will go to decision. We will fight three rounds. But I think I should rely more on my brain than my fists, you know? So during my fight camp, my coaches and team will give me thousands of game plans. I think I need to have very good execution during the fight. We have different game plans and I need to make the decision on how I need to fight in the cage by myself. So I think in this fight, the smarter one will win.”

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Drake Riggs
Drake is an MMA writer based out of Brush Prairie, Washington, USA who specializes in feature pieces, the women's fight scene, lists, news coverage, and rankings. He has been a passionate fan of MMA ever since 2009. Drake has most notably written for BJPenn.com, FanSided, The Body Lock, South China Morning Post, MyMMANews, WhatCulture, Cageside Press, Sherdog, The Scrap, and MMA Today. He has also written for and created video content for RT Sport. As for other sports, Drake is a longtime fan of the NFL's Green Bay Packers and Jacksonville Jaguars. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @DrakeRiggs_ . Also check out all of his video content on YouTube at YouTube.com/DrakeRiggs where he uploads fighter interviews, podshows, and various other types of content.