2019 ONE Championship Year in Review [Jan-Jun]
From Eddie Alvarez's horror start to Xiong Jingnan conquering Angela Lee, the first 6 months of 2019 was crazy for ONE.
Asia’s biggest fight promotion steamrolled into 2019 with momentum from signing two top UFC names in Demetrious Johnson and Eddie Alvarez.
They immediately set fans’ mouths watering with their announcement that the new signings would be part of dual Grand Prixs - Johnson at flyweight and Alvarez at lightweight.
The first championship fight of the year saw the strawweight belt change hands as Japanese Shooto Champ Yosuke Saruta unseated Team Lakay prodigy Joshua Pacio with a grappling heavy decision.
Adriano Moraes reclaimed the flyweight belt with a dominant display of grappling at Hero’s Ascent, beating another Lakay member in Geje Eustaquio.
Lowen Tynanes got the lightweight Grand Prix underway with a blistering stoppage of Honorio Banario that put the rest of the competitors on notice.
Then Muay Thai legend Nong-O Gaiyanghadao became ONE Championship’s first-ever bantamweight Muay Thai champion, winning a flashy five-rounder where both men took punishment.
A new star appeared in the form of ONE's kickboxing champion Stamp Fairtex, who added the Muay Thai title to her collection with a decision over Janet Todd.
The next two fights in the lightweight Grand Prix scored finishes with Ariel Sexton choking out Amir Khan in the third and Saygid Guseyn Arslanaliev doing his trademark bumrush to flood Ev Ting with pressure and finish him in 25 seconds.
When March rolled around it was time for the biggest card in ONE history - A New Era in Tokyo. It was the big debut for star signing Eddie Alvarez, in the final round of the lightweight Grand Prix quarter-finals, and it couldn’t have gone worse as Timofey Nastyukhin stopped him in the first.
Next up was Demetrious Johnson’s turn to debut, against Japanese fighter Yuya Wakamatsu. "Mighty Mouse" cleaned up with a guillotine choke that would have torn Wakamatsu’s head clean off if he hadn’t tapped.
Controversy clouded Kevin Belingon’s loss to Bibiano Fernandes when Belingon slammed consecutive elbows to Bibiano’s brain stem. The champ was DQ'd and the belt changed hands, but no-one was happy about it. Particularly Belingon"
First of all, I would like to apologise for what happened there. I didn't really mean. I was very disappointed when they gave me the red card. I think I was winning the first and second round, but things happen you know?
Next up, middle and light heavyweight double champ Aung La N Sang beat Ken Hasegawa in the rematch of their 2018 classic.
If that wasn’t enough atomweight champ Angela Lee moved up to challenge Xiong Jing Nan for the strawweight belt. Lee almost locked in a gruesome armbar in the fourth, but Xiong survived and landed a series of shots on her exhausted opponent that closed the show.
And local legend Shinya Aoki gave the card a fairytale ending by regaining the belt from Eduard Folayang with a first-round head and arm choke. The home crowd loved every minute of it.
Martin Nguyen took a moment to defend his featherweight belt against Narantungalag Jadambaa at Roots of Honor. He set up the finish with a couple of brutal calf kicks and then closed the show with a flying knee.
And that same night Joshua Pacio regained his strawweight title from the man who took it from him, Yosuke Saruta, sleeping the Japanese champ with a picture-perfect knee to the temple.
In his 12th pro-Muay Thai fight Johnathan Haggerty upset flyweight champ Sam-A Gaiyanghadao, who was looking for his 367th win.
Petchdam Petchyindee Academy became ONE's first-ever flyweight kickboxing king, but unfortunately only after landing the wrong kind of low kick. Elyas Mahmoudi was understandably unable to continue and Petchyindee was left holding the belt.
Another massive upset came from Christian-brother of Angela-Lee, as he overcame lightweight champion Shinya Aoki to capture his first title with a clean right hand and a flood of pressure.
And professional good-looking-guy Sage Northcutt made his jump to ONE (from the UFC) to face Cosmo Alexandre. Northcutt’s debut didn’t go as planned.
With the two Grand Prixs underway, ONE was attracting more attention than ever, and the year was off to a good start for the second biggest promotion in the MMA game.