The heroes of ONE Championship left behind a long list of memorable performances in 2019, but in order to be included among the very best match-ups of the year, it takes a special dance partner to help reach that prestigious level.
Fortunately, all of the mixed martial artists featured in this list delivered on that front.
Whether it was a five-round classic for a World Championship, a nonstop three-round battle, or a high stakes contest between legends, our athletes left it all in the Circle.
Now, after going through all the top matches, we have compiled the 10 greatest mixed martial arts bouts of 2019.
#1 Angela Lee vs. Xiong Jing Nan I
The Singaporean tried to lift the ONE Women’s Strawweight World Title from the defending queen, “The Panda” Xiong Jing Nan, in a bid to become the first female to hold two mixed martial arts belts in the promotion. Ultimately, she was unsuccessful.
Lee got off to a quick start with her striking and slick grappling. Xiong scored a few power shots, but the Singaporean used her speed to great effect. She continued to execute her strategy in the second frame, but the pace seemingly got to her in the third stanza, which allowed “The Panda” to connect with more of her boxing combinations.
However, in the fourth round, Lee flipped the script. She dumped the strawweight queen to the canvas, locked up a triangle choke, and then transitioned to an armbar. She cranked Xiong’s arm to unnatural angles, but the Chinese dynamo toughed it out to escape the round.
Everything changed in the fifth and final stanza. “The Panda” stormed out of the gates and cracked her exhausted rival with heavy combinations.
A powerful punch to the body sapped whatever energy Lee had remaining in the tank. Xiong followed it up with body kicks and a barrage of punches until the referee called an end to our Mixed Martial Arts Bout Of The Year.
#2 Aung La N Sang vs. Brandon Vera
This past October, ONE Heavyweight World Champion Brandon “The Truth” Vera dropped down a weight class to take a chance at achieving his dream of becoming a two-division ONE World Champion.
Aung La N Sang was the aggressor from the outset of the ONE Light Heavyweight World Title bout, as he landed powerful leg kicks. Vera, operating as a counter striker, used his expert technique to whip hard kicks of his own into the body of the Myanmar hero.
The Filipino-American tried to finish the bout in emphatic fashion with his powerful strikes, but “The Burmese Python” slipped the shots and defended the oncoming attack to end the opening frame.
In the second round, the pair stood in the pocket and exchanged thudding blows. However, it was Aung La N Sang who connected with the bout-deciding strike, as he smashed his larger opponent with a damaging spinning back elbow.
Vera tried to land one of his own, but “The Burmese Python” ducked and then connected with a right hook, which put the heavyweight king on his knees. Then the Myanmar sports icon swarmed the Filipino-American with ground and pound until the referee stopped the contest.
#3 Ariel Sexton vs. Amir Khan
In fact, it was the most action-packed bout of the ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix quarterfinals.
Khan controlled the opening round with superior striking and avoided a turf battle with the forward-pressuring grappler. The Singaporean’s quick start was precisely what the home audience wanted to see, and things were looking great for the local hero.
A counter-right hand from the Singaporean Muay Thai Champion dropped Sexton to the canvas moments into the second frame. Khan tried to close the show, but “Tarzan” weathered the storm.
But soon, the tide had turned. The hometown favorite was tiring out, and the Costa Rican took advantage by hitting a late-round takedown.
Though Sexton could not do much with it, he continued to up the pressure in the third frame. He connected with punches, landed a trip takedown, and advanced to Khan’s back. The Costa Rican sunk in his hooks, set-up the rear-naked choke, and forced the local hero to tap.
#4 Ev Ting vs. Daichi Abe
After dropping consecutive bouts, former ONE Lightweight World Title challenger Ev Ting had his back against the wall.
That, as well as his desire to maintain his undefeated record at home in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, made him extra motivated heading into his lightweight clash with Pancrase Welterweight World Champion Daichi Abe at ONE: MASTERS OF DESTINY in July.
The first round was hot and heavy, as both men connected with punches that sent each other crashing to the canvas at various times. Abe caught the local favorite early with a combination, while Ting later dropped the Japanese standout with a huge overhand right.
Wild exchanges set the tone early in the second frame, but Ting soon connected with another overhand right to drop his rival back to the mat.
“E.T.” swarmed with his ground and pound attack, and when Abe tried to escape, the Malaysian took his back and locked up a rear-naked choke. The submission hold was deep, and he forced the tap with just 16 seconds left in the period.
#5 Eduard Folayang vs. Eddie Alvarez
Multiple-time Lightweight World Champion Eddie “The Underground King” Alvarez told us just weeks before his clash with former ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard “Landslide” Folayang at ONE: DAWN OF HEROES in August that their contest could be the ‘Bout Of The Year.’
Evidently, he was not too far off with his prediction. Their ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix semifinal contest electrified the fans inside the Mall Of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines, and it ultimately made our list.
The Filipino icon out-struck his American rival in the opening minute of the tilt, as he connected with punches, spinning strikes, and thudding leg kicks. In fact, one of those leg kicks caused Alvarez to fall to the canvas.
Folayang attempted to seize the moment. He pounced on his adversary and unloaded a furious ground and pound attack, but “The Underground King” calmly swept the local hero to take top position.
Once Alvarez advanced to mount, Folayang gave up his back in an effort to escape. It served to be his downfall, as the American sunk in his hooks, slid his arm under the chin, and secured a rear-naked choke to force the Filipino icon to submit inside the first round.
The Best Of The Rest
- #6 Agilan Thani vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama
- #7 Danny Kingad vs. Senzo Ikeda
- #8 John Lineker vs. Muin Gafurov
- #9 Joshua Pacio vs. Yosuke Saruta II
- # 10 Angela Lee vs. Xiong Jing Nan II
Read more: Top 10 ONE Super Series Bouts Of 2019