ONE Championship had a year to remember in 2017, delivering excitement and action galore in the biggest 12 months for the organisation so far.
The biggest stars of the year were recently recognized in ONE Championship’s annual awards, with some even earning multiple honors.
HAPPY NGUYEN YEAR
It was a banner year for Australian-Vietnamese star Martin ‘The Situ-Asian’ Nguyen, who finished 2017 with TWO end-of-year awards, picking up the ONE Knockout of the Year and Warrior of the Year accolades after an historic year that will live long in memory.
Nguyen finished Kazunori Yokota, then ONE Featherweight World Champion Marat Gafurov, as he captured championship gold in spectacular fashion. But he managed to trump his stunning knockout for the featherweight belt by producing an even more dramatic knockout. He stunned Eduard ‘Landslide’ Folayang with a huge one-punch KO to claim the ONE Lightweight World Title, and become the first two-weight champion in ONE history.
His KO of Folayang - a perfectly-timed counter to the Filipino’s spinning back-kick - took the Knockout of the Year award, while his stellar year saw him crowned the ONE Warrior of the Year.
In 2018 he’ll look to complete an unprecedented hat-trick when he challenges ONE Bantamweight World Champion Bibiano ‘The Flash’ Fernandes in an attempt to become an unprecedented three-division world champion.
GOLDEN YEAR FOR SILVA
Evolve MMA’s Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion Alex Silva looked every bit the world championship contender in 2017, as he showcased his sublime submission skills en route to a shot at the ONE Strawweight World Title.
Silva faced undefeated Japanese grappler Hayato Suzuki at ONE: LEGENDS OF THE WORLD and used his opponent’s wrestling prowess against him, as he used a Suzuki takedown to set up a sequence that earned him the ONE Submission of the Year.
Silva brilliantly armbarred Suzuki in double-quick time to hand the Japanese veteran the first defeat of his career and book himself into a title shot with Yoshitaka Naito, which he went on to win with a superb all-round display of martial arts skills.
Now the new ONE Strawweight World Champion, Silva will face the considerable challenge of hanging onto his title as we head into 2018.
A BIG YEAR FOR THE ‘BURMESE PYTHON’
Myanmar’s Aung La N Sang had a huge year, winning the ONE Middleweight World Title from dominant champion Vitaly Bigdash in the ONE Bout of the Year for 2017.
The “Burmese Python” had already lost out to the Russian inside the ONE Championship cage, but was determined to make amends in the rematch.
In front of a passionate crowd in Yangon, Aung La N Sang delivered the performance of his life, rocking Bigdash in the opening stanza, and going on to outpoint the champion over five hard-fought rounds to become Myanmar’s first-ever world champion.
Aung La N Sang then returned to Yangon to compete in a one-off Open-Weight Super Bout against heavyweight knockout artist Alain Ngalani. And in an unforgettable atmosphere in the Thuwunna Indoor Arena he submitted the hulking Hong Kong heavyweight in the opening round.
Aung La N Sang will return to the middleweight division to defend his belt in 2018, with a potential trilogy bout against his old adversary Bigdash a mouthwatering prospect.
HEART AND DETERMINATION
The ONE Championship saw a host of thrilling comebacks in 2017, as the athletes showed that success inside the ONE Championship cage required much more than technique alone.
The heart, grit, and determination of the athletes were on display throughout the year, with none more remarkable than that of Swedish welterweight Zebazdian Kadestam. “The Bandit” survived a striking and grappling onslaught from Luis Santos at ONE: DYNASTY OF HEROES, before finishing the Brazilian in the final round to score one of the most thrilling wins of the year, and the ONE Comeback of the Year award.
He wasn’t alone, however. Former ONE Lightweight World Champion Kotetsu Boku proved that he still has plenty to give in his 40s as he came storming back to defeat Eric Kelly at ONE: KINGS & CONQUERORS, while on the same night Jomary Torres delivered a debut to remember as she came back to defeat Thai starlet Rika Ishige. Former pro boxer Roy Doliguez also had an impressive comeback win as he turned the tables on Brazilian Yago Bryan at ONE TOTAL VICTORY.
THE NEXT GENERATION
ONE Championship’s commitment to growing new stars was a feature of 2017, as a clutch of rising stars of stepped up to the global stage and delivered memorable performances throughout the year.
ONE’s Breakthrough Star of 2017 award went to former Muay Thai ace Sagetdao Petpayathai, whose transition from the Muay Thai ring to the martial arts cage appeared almost effortless over the past year.
Other notable newcomers included China’s ‘Supermom’ Miao Jie and ‘Rock Man’ Chen Lei, who showcased their personalities, as well as their skills, in their impressive performances in 2017.
Their development, along with the likely emergence of even more new talent, will be well worth following during ONE’s packed 24-event schedule in 2018.