It has been a banner year for so many athletes in ONE Championship.
Though every warrior that steps under the lights to compete in The Home Of Martial Arts is worthy of respect, there are some whose achievements are so remarkable, they deserve every bit of extra recognition they receive.
In 2018, many martial artists turned in remarkable performances. In any other year, our runners-up could have taken the award for Warrior Of The Year, but in the end, one man’s accomplishments stood above all others.
Here are ONE Championship’s Warriors Of The Year for 2018.
WINNER: Kevin Belingon
Kevin ' The Silencer' Belingon SILENCED his doubters to take ONE gold!Download the ONE Super App now http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp
Posted by ONE Championship on Monday, December 17, 2018
Even among the dominant World Champions, the serial finishers, and the other stars of Team Lakay, no one can quite match Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon’s run in 2018.
Though he may be a humble martial artist, the Baguio City native has achieved extraordinary things under the lights this year.
He began with one of the knockouts of the year, then defeated a two-division titleholder for his first taste of gold, and finally overcame the most successful World Champion in ONE history to win the undisputed ONE Bantamweight World Title.
Kevin ' The Silencer' Belingon made the take notice with this thrilling performance!Download the ONE Super App now http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp
Posted by ONE Championship on Wednesday, December 12, 2018
In front of his countrymen at the Mall Of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines, “The Silencer’s” second-round spinning back kick sent his American opponent flying across the ring, where he could do nothing to prevent a finishing ground and pound assault. It was one of the contenders for Knockout Of The Year and paved the way for a World Title shot.
However, with the ONE Bantamweight World Champion on the shelf, Belingon had to settle for a contest for interim gold at ONE: REIGN OF KINGS in July – though it came in a main event assignment against Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen.
Back in front of his Manila faithful, the Ifugao hero stepped on the gas from the first minute, and never let up over five rounds to score a unanimous decision. It was an overwhelming display against the man who held World Titles in the lightweight and featherweight divisions at the time.
With the ONE Interim Bantamweight World Title over his shoulder, a showdown with the weight class’ longtime top dog had to happen next. Belingon got his chance to rematch Fernandes – the man who made him tap within a round almost three years before – in the headline bout of ONE: HEART OF THE LION in Singapore in November.
Kevin ' The Silencer' Belingon returned home to a hero's welcome! Download the ONE Super App now http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp
Posted by ONE Championship on Sunday, December 16, 2018
“The Silencer” that entered this contest was light years beyond the man that challenged for the belt all that time ago. He escaped every submission “The Flash” tried to lock up, and fired back with every ounce of his being.
In the end, it was a close-run thing, but the 31-year-old had done just enough to earn a split decision, unify the belts, and become the undisputed ONE Bantamweight World Champion.
Along with his achievements, Belingon is the model of a true martial artist and an inspiration to his people. That is why he was unanimously voted to be the ONE Warrior Of The Year.
Runner-Up: Aung La N Sang
Aung La Nsang(Burmese Python) is truly The Peoples Champion!Download the ONE Super App now http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp
Posted by ONE Championship on Wednesday, December 19, 2018
How do you follow up a year in which you win your nation’s first World Title? “The Burmese Python” Aung La N Sang treated his fans in Yangon, Myanmar to another belt and the greatest bout in ONE history.
The Myanmar hero wasted no time in becoming a two-division World Champion in February. He knocked out Alexandre Machado in just 84 seconds at ONE: QUEST FOR GOLD to win the ONE Light Heavyweight World Title and become The Home Of Martial Arts’ second twin titleholder.
Aung La N Sang returned to middleweight for the first defense of that crown against Japan’s Ken Hasegawa at ONE: SPIRIT OF A WARRIOR. He said he wanted to put on more of a show for his fans this time, but no one could have predicted what was to come in June.
The rivals went toe-to-toe from the get-go and did not give an inch as they tried to wear each other down. By the championship rounds, “The Burmese Python” looked to have the win in the bag, but he left no doubt by doing what true World Champions do – dig deep to seal the victory with a stunning knockout.
If that was not enough, he made his next defense in October look easy as he dismantled Mohammad “O Lutador” Karaki inside a round at ONE: PURSUIT OF GREATNESS.
Runner-Up: Xiong Jing Nan
Is Xiong Jing Nan ONE's female athlete of the year?Download the ONE Super App now http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp
Posted by ONE Championship on Wednesday, December 19, 2018
Big things were expected of “The Panda” Xiong Jing Nan after her explosive ONE debut in 2017, and she exceeded them all.
Her first success would have been enough to shortlist her for this award – as she became China’s first mixed martial arts World Champion at ONE: KINGS OF COURAGE. Her domination and stoppage of Tiffany “No Chil” Teo in January was an incredible performance that earned her the inaugural ONE Women’s Strawweight World Title.
For her next feat, she showed her ever-evolving skills in a five-round shut-out of Laura “La Gladiadora” Balin at ONE: PINNACLE OF POWER in June.
Finally, Xiong had a glorious homecoming as she topped the bill in Shanghai in September. In front of a passionate crowd at ONE: BEYOND THE HORIZON, she stopped Samara “Marituba” Santos in the third round.
Unfortunately, “The Panda” missed out on the chance to strengthen her case to be Warrior Of The Year when her World Champion versus World Champion super-bout with “Unstoppable” Angela Lee was delayed, but she will get the chance to seal a signature victory when that match finally takes place at ONE: A NEW ERA in March.
Runner-Up: Shinya Aoki
How will Shinya Aoki's 2019 go?Download the ONE Super App now http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp
Posted by ONE Championship on Monday, December 3, 2018
It takes something special to be in the running for Warrior Of The Year when you have no World Title win to your name, but then again, Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki is a special athlete.
The Japanese icon began the year with a submission of former ONE Featherweight World Champion Marat “Cobra” Gafurov in a grappling super-match, and went on to run over three high-quality mixed martial artists in succession.
Shannon “OneShin” Wiratchai only made it to 2:16, as he was taken down and TKO’d at ONE: REIGN OF KINGS. “Tobikan Judan” saved the best for last – and his toughest test of 2018 – as he ended Ev “E.T.” Ting’s night with an arm-triangle choke in 57 seconds at ONE: KINGDOM OF HEROES in October.
He may not have earned the accolade for the best ONE performer of the year, but he did earn a chance to regain the ONE Lightweight World Title against Eduard Folayang in Tokyo, Japan on 31 March.
Runner-Up: Eduard Folayang
Who's next for Eduard "The Landslide" Folayang? Download the ONE Super App now http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp
Posted by ONE Championship on Friday, November 30, 2018
Not even Eduard “Landslide” Folayang himself would have dared to predict he could improve on his run in 2016 – when he captured the ONE Lightweight World Title for the first time.
However, after giving two powerhouse Russian grapplers their first taste of defeat, he regained the belt, and the Filipino believes that is the greatest moment of his career.
Folayang began his road back to gold with a clear unanimous decision defeat of Kharun Atlangeriev at ONE: UNSTOPPABLE DREAMS. He stepped things up a gear with a high-octane display to overcome the challenge of Aziz Pahrudinov at ONE: REIGN OF KINGS, and earn another clean sweep of the judges’ cards.
His opponent for the lightweight crown was the young, hungry Amir Khan – who holds the record for the most knockouts in ONE history. The Singaporean had youth on his side, too, but “Landslide” defied the 10-year age gap to put on the most complete mixed martial arts performance of his career.
At November’s ONE: CONQUEST OF CHAMPIONS in Manila, he used every trick in his book, as well as a few new ones, to overwhelm Khan and take his seat back on the division’s throne thanks to another, sensational, unanimous decision win.