Tawanchai PK.Saenchai Named ONE’s 2022 Breakout Star Of The Year
Although Tawanchai PK.Saenchai made his first two ONE Championship appearances in 2021, the Thai dynamo’s incredible performances in 2022 were what really drove his exponential rise to the top.
The 23-year-old Pattaya native kicked off his campaign with a pair of highlight-reel knockouts, and then he dethroned the division’s longtime kingpin to take the ONE Featherweight Muay Thai World Title.
Those phenomenal showings cemented Tawanchai’s status as one of the most dangerous Muay Thai practitioners in the sport, and it rightfully earned him the honor of ONE’s 2022 Breakout Star of the Year.
Tawanchai opened the year in a catchweight contest against #1-ranked bantamweight Muay Thai contender Saemapetch Fairtex at ONE: HEAVY HITTERS in January.
On paper, this bout looked as if it would be a long, strategic battle between two highly skilled competitors. But instead, the Pattaya native made quick work of his compatriot.
The Fairtex representative simply had no answer for Tawanchai’s snapping kicks and piston-like punches. After first putting his rival down with a left kick and right hand, the PK.Saenchai man sealed the deal with another crunching left at 2:55 of the opening stanza.
Following the win, Tawanchai revealed that he would be moving up to the featherweight division permanently as he couldn’t squeeze his frame down to the bantamweight limit without sacrificing too much in the process.
He was offered a World Title eliminator bout in his new weight class and took on Niclas “Dreamchaser” Larsen for the top contender spot in the main event of ONE 158 in June.
Larsen was a formidable foe who tried to threaten with pressure, but Tawanchai maintained his composure and fired back with devastating counters. It only took him 30 seconds to deck the Dane for the first time with a right hook-left cross.
“Dreamchaser” didn’t stop going after Tawanchai in round two, but the slick Pattaya native was a step ahead. Another hook-cross combination dropped Larsen again, and this time, he couldn’t make the count.
The second consecutive finish – and his third overall in ONE Championship – earned Tawanchai a shot at long-standing featherweight Muay Thai king Petchmorakot Petchyindee’s gold at ONE 161 in September.
It was a nail-biting five rounds for the ONE Featherweight Muay Thai World Title. Both men had their share of success, but Tawanchai’s thudding left hand and hard low kicks were a consistent threat to his countryman.
A fourth-round surge from the defending titleholder made it look as if he might just have the reserves to stay on the throne, but the challenger showed his heart and went for broke in the fifth and final stanza.
Tawanchai pummeled his foe with hard left kicks and punches to sway the judges in his favor via unanimous decision.
Now the ONE Featherweight Muay Thai World Champion and looking stronger with every outing, it’ll take a phenomenal effort to knock the surging Tawanchai off his perch in 2023.