It has been the best year of action yet in ONE Championship, and the spectacular finishes kept on coming, as our martial arts heroes put on a show every time they stepped into the cage.
With 58 incredible knockout finishes to choose from in 2017, compiling a definitive list of the very best proved a tough task. That said, here is ONE Championship’s Knockout of the Year for 2017, as well as the top contenders.
WINNER: Martin Nguyen Against Eduard Folayang
If a martial artist could win this award three times in a year, Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen is it. With his famed overhand right, Nguyen knocked out three top-tier opponents in a row, each in increasingly spectacular fashion.
First was Kazunori Yokota, then ONE Featherweight World Champion Marat Gafurov, but the best one of all was when Nguyen challenged Eduard “Landslide” Folayang for the ONE Lightweight World Title at ONE: LEGENDS OF THE WORLD.
Facing a fellow world champion in his home country of the Philippines was arguably the biggest challenge of Nguyen’s martial arts career. But buoyed by a victory over Gafurov that saw him exact revenge over the Russian and capture the ONE Featherweight World Title, Nguyen’s confidence was sky-high.
Against Folayang, the 28-year-old Aussie started calmly, taking the center of the cage and waiting for his opening. When that opening came, he took advantage with the most dramatic finish of the year.
“Landslide” had been working his kicks in a cagey opening round, and came out for the second looking to push the pace. But Nguyen turned Folayang’s aggression to his own advantage, as he perfectly countered a spinning back kick with a colossal right hand that stopped the Filipino hero in his tracks.
“Throughout training camp, I caught spinning back fists and spinning back kicks from the boys so many times,” Nguyen recalls of his preparation at KMA Top Team.
“Come event week, everything started coming into motion. I was dodging spinning back fists, and I was dodging spinning back kicks. I was moving in and out, perfectly. I was in peak performance. On event night, I got caught with a few leg kicks, but I adjusted perfectly, and landed the punch.”
That punch was heard all over the world, as it gave Nguyen the belt, and the historic honor of becoming the promotion’s only two-division World Champion.
#2 Alain Ngalani Against Hideki Sekine
Just a brief glance at Alain Ngalani’s physique will give you the hint. “The Panther” is a ridiculously powerful athlete.
The hulking heavyweight is looking to move towards title contention and earn a shot at Brandon Vera’s ONE Heavyweight World Championship in 2018. And if his performance against Japanese veteran Hideki Sekine is anything to go by, Ngalani’s title challenge should be taken seriously.
Vera had previously stopped Sekine with strikes in three minutes and 11 seconds in his most recent title defense at ONE: AGE OF DOMINATION in December 2016.
Ngalani blew those numbers out of the water with a devastating display of fleet-footedness and one-punch knockout power that left the crowd at September’s ONE: TOTAL VICTORY event in awe.
BJJ champion Sekine charged at Ngalani from the opening bell, looking to lock up with “The Panther” and drag him to the canvas. But Ngalani was wise to it, backpedalling with rare agility for a man of his size. Then, with Sekine pursuing him around the cage, Ngalani planted his feet and exploded with a huge right hand to send the Japanese hulk crashing to the canvas in one of the most stunning one-punch KOs of the year.
In fact, it was the fastest knockout in the heavyweight division’s history.
#3 Christian Lee Against Kotetsu Boku
Usually knockouts come from strikes, but occasionally they take place through other, equally spectacular means. That is exactly what happened when Singapore’s teenaged sensation Christian “The Warrior” Lee faced off against former ONE Lightweight World Champion Kotetsu “No Face” Boku at ONE: WARRIORS OF THE WORLD in December.
With “No Face” looking to push forward and walk down his young opponent, Lee shot in for a takedown, locking his hands around the veteran campaigner’s waist. And, with Boku spinning around to avoid having his back taken by the youngster, Lee exploded into a huge side slam, which knocked out the Japanese veteran as he hit the canvas.
It was as stunning as it was unexpected, and tied Lee for Amir Khan’s promotional record for most finishes at eight.
#4 Honorio Banario Against Jaroslav Jartim
Inaugural ONE Featherweight World Champion Honorio “The Rock” Banario only competed in the ONE cage a single time in 2017, but his lone appearance delivered a performance to remember.
Banario faced off against Czech striker Jaroslav Jartim at ONE: KINGS OF DESTINY back in April, and the pair engaged in a thrilling back-and-forth battle that ended in spectacular fashion in the second round of the contest.
With Jartim looking to punish Banario to the body, the Czech loaded up with a heavy right kick to Banario’s ribs. But as he threw his kick, “The Rock” countered brilliantly with a one-two combination, which knocked Jartim out clean.
It was as slick a finish as we saw in the ONE cage this past year, and well deserving of a spot in our top five.
#5 Joshua Pacio Against Roy Doliguez
They say the most dangerous punches are always the ones you do not see coming, and that was perfectly illustrated when fellow Filipino former world title challengers Joshua Pacio and Roy Doliguez met at ONE: LEGENDS OF THE WORLD in November.
With both men looking to push forward and dominate the striking exchanges, the strawweight bout was an exciting contest, with the fans unaware of what was about to unfold before their eyes.
As the match entered the second round, both men looked to establish their dominance on the feet. When Pacio threw a powerful right leg kick that narrowly missed its mark, Doliguez stepped in quickly, looking to land a counter right hook. But, as the former professional boxer was in the process of throwing his punch, he was met by a high-velocity spinning back fist from Pacio, which knocked him out instantly.
It was a spectacular finish, and a spectacular strike to round out our Knockouts of the Year for 2017.