ONE Championship is home to martial artists from a wide array of backgrounds. There are stand-up technicians, world-class wrestlers, and fearsome submission artists. Each brings their own flavor to Asia’s biggest martial arts spectacle, and the many potential routes to victory are what makes it so electrifying.
However, there is always one way of winning that captivates the attention of the fans more than any other – the knockout. It is a spectacular showcase of raw power, yet is so nuanced and beautiful. Whether they come from Muay Thai, boxing, wushu, lethwei, or any of the other wide-ranging styles that are showcased inside the cage, it is the strikers who really set pulses racing.
They are capable of ending matches in split seconds, come from behind to dispatch their opponents with one perfectly-executed punch and kick, or simply control their foe with elite-level expertise. It is a thrilling style that is easy to enjoy, but difficult to master.
Here are the most powerful strikes currently on the ONE Championship roster that you absolutely need to keep an eye on at all times.
ONE Featherweight World Champion Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen (9-1) is a true finisher, with all nine of his career victories coming inside the distance. Amazingly, six of those have come by way of knockout, the most recent of which happened against previously-unbeaten champion Marat “Cobra” Gafurov for the coveted title.
The Vietnamese-Australian was a late starter in martial arts, debuting as an amateur just five years ago. However, the athleticism he had honed through years of playing rugby translated into instant success, and that hard-hitting background has resulted in a sensational highlight reel.
He has honed his boxing and Muay Thai skills over the years, but his raw power and speed is a huge factor in turning off the lights for his adversaries. When his gloves land on opponents, they tend to fall over, especially his feared overhand right.
At 28, he is still reaching his physical prime and is constantly evolving as a martial artist. That only spells further danger for any potential opponents who would like to wrest the championship belt from his grasp.
His next bout takes place on Friday, 10 November, but he will not be defending his title. Rather, Nguyen will attempt to add the ONE Lightweight World Championship to his trophy case, as he challenges reigning titleholder Eduard “Landslide” Folayang at ONE: LEGENDS OF THE WORLD.
Ferocious heavyweight Alain “The Panther” Ngalani started his martial arts journey early in life with judo, but soon found a penchant for the striking arts. He studied many disciplines of karate, savate, and kickboxing before focusing his energy on Muay Thai.
The 42-year-old Cameroonian striker, who is now based in Hong Kong, won world titles in Muay Thai and kickboxing with a stunning 26 knockouts to his name in all competitions. “The Panther” debuted in ONE back in 2013, and his three victories in the promotion have all come via knockout.
This is a man made from granite, and is armed with a punch that could fell an elephant. Hideki Sekine found that out to his peril at ONE: TOTAL VICTORY in Jakarta, when Ngalani knocked him out in just 11 seconds, setting the record for fastest KO in the heavyweight division’s history. It’s not just his punches either – just look at his highlight-reel spinning hook kick KO of Mahmoud Hassan.
Ngalani, a contender in the heavyweight division, will meet ONE Middleweight World Champion Aung La “The Burmese Python” N Sang in an Open Weight Super Bout at ONE: HERO’S DREAM on Friday, 3 November.
Brandon “The Truth” Vera (15-7) brings heavyweight power and lightweight fluidity to the cage, alongside unrivaled experience. The Filipino-American veteran has amazed fans in all parts of the world with crisp, yet powerful striking that has seen him win by knockout in 10 of his 15 victories. This is even more impressive when you consider the level of high-caliber opposition he has encountered.
The 39-year-old is 3-0 with three finishes under the ONE banner, and won the ONE Heavyweight World Championship in 2015 when he decimated Paul Cheng in just 26 seconds, using the devastating punches and kicks he is renowned for.
In his first title defense at ONE: AGE OF DOMINATION last December, it was the powerful kicks that once again set up the finish, scything down Sekine with a ripping shin to the liver before sealing the deal with punches.
Feared lightweight Timofey Nastyukhin (11-3) is relentless. The unforgiving Russian has one aim when he steps into the cage, and that is to aggressively pursue the knockout. Given even the slightest opportunity, he has opponents looking up at the spotlights in almost no time at all. In fact, he owns the fastest KO in ONE Championship history at a mere six seconds, with the win coming over tough Australian Rob Lisita.
Nastyukhin’s 91 per cent finishing rate speaks volumes. Six of his wins have come by knockout, and his first three victories in ONE all came by KO. The finishing power he has in hands, knees, and feet are more than enough to strike terror into the hearts of those standing opposite him.
After breaking his tibia in November 2016, the 27-year-old proved that he was fully healed from injury when he bested former lightweight world title challenger Koji Ando via unanimous decision this past August.
It seemed to take Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon (16-5) a while to realize just how merciless his striking power is. Despite running at breakneck speed to 9-0 at the start of his career, the Team Lakay bantamweight was not a renowned knockout artist. However, since signing with ONE and focusing on his training regime in Baguio City, five of his seven victories have come by way of knockout.
With his wushu background honed under Mark Sangiao, “The Silencer” is as lethal as the nickname suggests — he is fast, destructive and goes for the clean shot. The 29-year-old is literally punching his way to a second title opportunity against ONE Bantamweight World Champion Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes, having recently knocked out two fellow former world title challengers in the very first round.
As the opponents keep falling, he gets one step closer to that ultimate goal of world championship glory.
22-year-old lightweight Amir Khan (8-2) hails from Singapore and represents Evolve MMA, where he trains with world champions in Muay Thai, BJJ, and wrestling on a daily basis. He carries a sole split decision loss under the ONE banner, and is currently riding a five-bout win streak. Of that five-bout streak, he has four knockouts, and seven in total throughout his career in ONE Championship, giving him the most KOs in ONE history.
Khan’s beginning in combat sports came as a Muay Thai competitor, which helps to explain how he generates such power, as he combines powerful hips with full commitment to every shot. He goes out to the cage to get the job done, and his perfect finishing ratio attests to that. His stoppages have all come via punches, kicks, and elbows, showing the array of strikes he has in his arsenal that he can use to put opponents down for the count.
Although he admits the ‘OneShin Striking System’ was simply a cool way to repackage the ideas he has learned through various striking arts over the years, it is certainly effective, as Thai martial arts pioneer Shannon “OneShin” Wiratchai (8-1, 1 NC) draws from many different forms of stand-up combat.
His introduction to martial arts came through kung fu, unorthodox for a Thai athlete, but one that allowed him to see the game in a different light. He added boxing and Muay Thai to his game, along with his critical approach to absorbing the techniques that were useful to him from each discipline.
The 28-year-old has momentum on his side as he is on a six-bout win streak. He has recently knocked out four opponents, including the last three. It is not raw power that OneShin” uses, unlike some of his peers on this list, but an evolution of accuracy, timing, and IQ that leaves his opponents vulnerable, giving him the openings to attack efficiently and send them home for an early night.
Now, he is one win away from a title shot. He will headline ONE: WARRIORS OF THE WORLD on Saturday, 9 December, in his native Bangkok. If he defeats Russia’s Rasul Yakhyaev in the main event, he will challenge for the belt sometime next year.