The year 2020 might have derailed everything happening in our world, but it definitely did not stop ONE Championship in producing quality entertaining action! With over 20 major events launched this 2020, I will be laying out the best ONE Championship fighters, the ones who had the most success this year!
Yodkaikaew “Y2K” Fairtex (3-0)
Yodkaikaew Fairtex, a peculiar name, one that you’ll mostly hear from Muay Thai Fighters. Well, Yodkaikaew really was a Muay Thai fighter, who transitioned into MMA. Before the pandemic struck, almost no one in the MMA world had a clue who Yodkaikaew was. He is one of the people who had benefited most from this lengthy break because in just a space of four months, he racked up three straight wins.
Fighting in ONE Championship, Yodkaikaew earned the spotlight. He had his break in ONE: No Surrender II defeating John Shink, and now at the end of the year, he was a victor against one of the best ONE championship fighters, Flyweight Tatsumitsu Wada.
Yodkaikaew Fairtex works diligently to improve his ground game. He trains with BJJ and No-Gi World Champion DJ Jackson. Constantly improving in that aspect, along with his striking prowess, he poses a big threat to the ONE Flyweight division. It will be interesting to see Yodkaikaew go toe-to-toe with the best ONE Championship fighters in 2021.
Ritu “The Indian Tigress” Phogat (3-0)
One of the hottest prospects in the women’s division is Ritu Phogat. A wrestler in her background, she is an Indian National Champion, 2016 Commonwealth Wrestling Champion in Singapore, and even a Silver Medalist at the Under-23 Wrestling Championship in Poland. Ritu Phogat has achieved a lot while still being currently still 26 years-old.
Not only did Ritu Phogat amass 3 wins in this year, but she did it in a convincing manner. Having a unanimous decision versus Wu Chiao Chen in February, Ritu Phogat seemingly had taken huge steps in her development. In her next two fights, she has shown improvement in every aspect of her game. This led her to finish Kun Khmer World Champion Nou Srey Pov, and then just a month later, Filipina Jomary Torres.
Phogat has said that she draws inspiration from UFC Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov. This shows as she has that same tenacity when it comes to dominance in the ground. With her success this year, she books her spot in the upcoming Women’s Atomweight Grand Prix. There, she will be tested against warriors who belong among the best ONE Championship fighters.
Eko Roni Saputra (3-0)
Another wrestler who had immense success this year is Eko Roni Saputra. Eko Roni, like Ritu Phogat, is a multiple-time Indonesian National Wrestling Champion, and a SEAG medalist. He now trains at the famous Evolve Fight Team in Singapore, where he hones his skills to become a better and well-rounded fighter.
Eko Roni Saputra had an upsetting debut as a professional MMA fighter. With very high hopes, he, unfortunately, suffered a knockout loss in the first round. But, he did not let that failure stop him. Eko Roni bounced back to win four consecutive fights, three being in this year alone.
In this three-fight winning streak, he has finished notable opponents in Murugan Silvarajoo and Ramon Gonzales, all in a highlight reel style. His win over Silvarajoo was a highlight to remember, a very rare submission where he modified an Americana, locking it using his legs. Eko Roni sure is one of the most entertaining, and best ONE Championship Fighters to watch.
Phetmorakot Petchyindee Academy (3-0)
Reigning ONE Featherweight Muay Thai World Champion Petchmorakot Petchyindee Academy had a very successful 2020. In this year, he won the inaugural ONE Featherweight Muay Thai title, then proceeded to defend the belt twice. In those defenses, we saw him take on the renowned Muay Thai legend Yodsanklai Fairtex and finishing Lion Fight World Champion Magnus Andersson.
Petchmorakot, still 26, now owns a very impressive resume. He has defeated world-renowned fighters like Liam Harrison, Yodsanklai Fairtex, and even the legendary Saenchai. Petchmorakot also briefly held a win over one of the greatest kickboxers, Giorgio Petrosyan. At just 26 years of age, he is slowly cementing himself as one of the best ONE Championship fighters.
Rodtang “The Iron Man” Jitmuangnon (2-0)
Opening the year, Rodtang Jitmuangnon had to fight for vindication. His last fight ended up in a controversial decision that saw him win the ONE Flyweight Muay Thai title. In the very first ONE Championship event of 2020, Rodtang Jitmuangnon rematched former belt-holder, Jonathan Haggerty.
Rodtang did not leave any doubts in the rematch, as he finished Jonathan Haggerty in the 3rd round. He imposed his will, he defended his belt, and he marked a new era in the ONE Super Series Flyweight Muay Thai division. Rodtang would then go on to make another defense in ONE: No Surrender, beating a long-time rival, Petchdam Petchyindee Academy.
Now already with 3 title defenses, Rodtang seems to be invincible, unhurtable, and unbeatable. In all of his performances, he just eats shots and crumbles his opponents with heavy pressure. Rodtang is undoubtely one of the best ONE Championship fighters, and he will stay in that spotlight for long.
Sam-A Gaiyanghadao (2-0)
Age doesn’t seem to be a problem for the living legend, Sam-A Gaiyanghadao. This year, he won the inaugural ONE Muay Thai Strawweight title and he’s also simultaneously the ONE Kickboxing Strawweight champion. Sam-A has been one of the best ONE Championship fighters for a while. Now at 37 years-old, he doesn’t seem to be slowing down, just becoming wiser and technical.
Sam-A beat Rocky Ogden and Josh Tonna, two young and hungry fighters who looked to upset. In the latest outing, Sam-A knocked out Tonna via 3 knockdowns. The Muay Thai living legend was too slick, too powerful, and too experienced for the young guns to handle. With that performance, Sam-A proves that he can still keep up with the best ONE Championship fighters, and be at the top. It will be interesting how 2021 goes for Sam-A.
Thanh Le (2-0)
An LFA and UFC veteran, Thanh Le came to the UFC with a mission to achieve world championship gold. Upon signing with ONE Championship, he had a 100% finishing rate. That was something he would carry on to the promotion. He quickly amassed 3 wins, the third being after he knocked out Ryogo Takahashi on January, ONE: A New Tomorrow.
Thanh Le would then gain the right to a title shot, a fight against 3 years reigning ONE Featherweight Champion, Martin Nguyen. In the biggest event of the year, ONE: Inside the Matrix, Thanh Le shocked the world. Thanh Le went toe-to-toe with Martin Nguyen for three rounds, even taking a lot of shots from the champion. When the champion seemed to have started taking over the fight, BOOM!, a sneaky right hand from Thanh Le caught Nguyen straight to the chin. Thanh Le upsets Martin Nguyen, he became the new Champion.
Undefeated in the promotion so far, and maintaining his perfect finishing rate, Thanh Le is to be looked upon. He proved he belongs among the best ONE Championship fighters. A rematch with Martin Nguyen is up in the air, possibly happening in 2021. For now, Thanh Le is the ONE Featherweight Champion!
Reinier “The Dutch Knight” De Ridder (2-0)
Reinier De Ridder, one of the most successful ONE Championship fighters this year. De Ridder came into the promotion undefeated. He easily handled his debut against Fan Rong, and then the next challenge in Gilberto Galvao. He then took a very tough test against Leandro Ataides, early this year. The BJJ specialist battled with a power puncher and emerged as the victor. With a win over Leandro, De Ridder earned a shot against Aung La NSang.
Aung La NSang, arguably the best ONE Championship fighter, was invincible in his current streak. Winning 7 consecutive fights, Aung La NSang was a huge favorite to remain in his reign as champion. Reinier De Ridder, during the buildup of the fight, has campaigned that he’s going to dethrone NSang. “The Dutch Knight” did not disappoint. In the very first round, he choked NSang.
Reinier De Ridder accomplished what was seemingly impossible at the moment. A very huge upset, the upset of the year, one that would go on the history books of ONE Championship. With that win, he instantly became one of the best ONE Championship fighters.
Featured Images Credits to ONE Championship
Follow me on Twitter at @Jude_Briosos and follow us @OT_Heroics and @OTHeroicsMMA for more great content!
Also, be sure to check out the Overtime Heroics Forums page to join in on the discussion!