Denice Zamboanga vs. Seo Hee Ham: Who Can Win it All?

Published 08/31/2021, 5:49 AM EDT

The ONE Women’s Atomweight World Grand Prix kicks off this Friday night, September 3 at ONE Championship: Empower, as eight of the world’s best female atomweight fighters go head-to-head to determine the next challenger to the atomweight throne.


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The winner of the single-elimination tournament will earn the right to challenge reigning ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion “Unstoppable” Angela Lee for the belt.

The matchup that has the MMA world abuzz is between #1-ranked atomweight contender, Denice “Lycan Queen” Zamboanga of the Philippines, and #5-ranked atomweight, Seo Hee Ham of South Korea. Many consider this bout as the one to watch out for in the tournament, and for good reason.


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Zamboanga is one of the Philippines’ fastest rising stars. After defeating highly regarded Malaysian athlete Jihin Radzuan, she then took care of business against two-time former ONE World Title challenger Mei Yamaguchi to earn her place in the top five.

Meanwhile, promotional newcomer Seo is as dangerous as they come. The veteran fighter has loads of experience competing at the highest levels in various global MMA promotions, including Road FC and the UFC. She is viewed by many as the ‘dark horse’ of the tournament who could go all the way to the finals and win it all.

So how does this fight play out? Let’s break it down.

Keys to Victory: Denice Zamboanga

Zamboanga took ONE Championship by storm, winning her first three fights for the promotion in impressive fashion. Honing her skills at Marrok Force in Bangkok, Thailand with older brother Drex, who is also a ONE Championship fighter, Zamboanga is a well-rounded martial artist with solid striking and grappling skills.

While she doesn’t stand out in any one particular area, she’s incredibly tough in all areas. When she has an opponent hurt, she can be very aggressive and hunt for the finish. At the same time, Zamboanga can withstand a firefight and stay right in the pocket.

“Lycan Queen” also has a solid ground game, and more than held her own against grappling aces Radzuan and Yamaguchi. That ground game will come in handy against Seo, who likes to come forward.

For Zamboanga to win this fight, she needs to mix it up and come in with the right game plan. She’s tough enough to strike with Seo, but that might not be the wisest decision. Zamboanga is a fantastic wrestler and grappler, and it would serve her well to stick a takedown or two to diversify her attack.

Seo has excellent boxing. She is fast and powerful, so Zamboanga needs to be on point defensively to avoid getting caught in the exchanges like many of the South Korean’s past opponents.

Keys to Victory: Seo Hee Ham

There’s a reason why many people are so high on Seo as the one fighter to look out for in this tournament. None other than Angela Lee herself said she will be keeping an eye on the dangerous South Korean. 

Seo, of course, didn’t earn the nickname “Hamderlei Silva” for nothing. She punches like a truck, and puts a beatdown on her opponents with relentless aggression. She is hardly ever seen taking a step backward in any of her fights, and is usually the one coming forward. But she also has an underrated ground game that can give her another avenue of victory in a pinch.

And with a professional record of 28-8, including 16 wins by decision, make no mistake about it, Seo knows how to win at any cost.

Seo already owns victories over the aforementioned Yamaguchi, fellow Grand Prix entrant Alyona Rassohyna, in addition to winning performances against Jinh Yu Frey, and Cortney Casey. But because of that, she enters this tournament with a bounty on her head.


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Seo has to live up to the hype and prove she belongs in this tournament, starting with the division’s current #1-ranked contender.


Zamboanga and team will be very well-prepared for whatever Seo brings to the table.


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Trust that the Filipina’s camp have done their research on Seo and studied all the footage on her. This looks to be an entertaining fight from start to finish, and the better woman will come out on top, ready for the next round in the Grand Prix.

Fans consider this fight the “finals before the finals.” Whoever wins this fight could become the favorite to win the whole thing.



Varun Khanna

1334 articles

Starting off as a tennis author in 2018, Varun Khanna has gone on to contribute to EssentiallySports in various capacities. After setting up interviews with the likes of Serena Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou, Alizé Cornet, and Noah Rubin, Varun is now part of all major ATP and WTA press conferences and has gone on to pen more than 1300 articles for EssentiallySports. He now heads the tennis and NBA division of the organization.