With the door shutting on 2022, ONE Championship has handed out some awards to its athletes. On Tuesday, the company capped off its end-of-year awards by giving out its third “Athlete Of The Year” honor. ONE celebrated its top athletes in kickboxing, mixed martial arts, and Muay Thai.
Tawanchai PK.Saenchai took home the Muay Thai Athlete Of The Year honor. The talented Thai star got his year rocking with a first-round knockout over Saemapetch Fairtex at ONE: Heavy Hitters. Five months later, he returned to grab a second-round KO over Niclas Larsen. But that would all pale in comparison to his crowning achievement in September.
At ONE 161, Tawanchai nabbed the ONE Featherweight Muay Thai World Championship by unanimous decision over Petchmorakot Petchyindee. In a closely-contested battle, the tactical brilliance of Tawanchai saw him pick up the win on the cards. Getting honorable mention status were Smilla Sundell, Superlek Kiatmoo9, Nong-O Gaiyanghadao, and Rodtang Jitmuangnon.
It was ONE Light Heavyweight World Champion and ONE Heavyweight Kickboxing World Grand Prix winner Roman Kryklia who took home the kickboxing award. Much like Tawanchai, Kryklia went a perfect 3-0 in 2022 to earn him the Kickboxing Athlete Of The Year title. It all started by defending his ONE Light Heavyweight World Title against Murat Aygun with a first-round knockout.
However, Kryklia really made his presence known in the ONE Heavyweight Kickboxing World Grand Prix. At ONE 161, he punched his ticket to the final with a first-round TKO over Guto Inocente. In the final, he was able to take the series lead against familiar foe Iraj Azizpour with a second-round TKO. With three matches and three finishes, Kryklia was the obvious choice and edged out honorable mentions Jonathan Di Bella, Chingiz Allazov, Superbon Singha Mawynn, and Zhang Peimian.
Another heavyweight was a clear-cut choice for MMA Athlete Of The Year. Perhaps nobody in the sport did more to leap into superstardom than Anatoly Malykhin. In February, the Russian thumper claimed the ONE Interim Heavyweight World Championship with a second-round TKO over Kirill Grishenko. The win looked to set up a unification match, but a chance at two-division gold fell into the Russian’s lap.
At ONE on Prime Video 5, Malykhin met Reinier De Ridder for his ONE Light Heavyweight World Championship. The main event contest was a meeting between undefeateds, but Malykhin’s power was simply too much for the Dutchman. Malykhin crushed De Ridder inside of the first round and put his stamp on 2022 with a second championship belt. The heavyweight took the honor ahead of Christian Lee, Tang Kai, Demetrious Johnson, and Jarred Brooks.
As ONE prepares to make its U.S. debut in 2023, all three of these talented athletes could help bolster the card with their remarkable talents. Building off the momentum of 2022, each of the ONE Athlete Of The Year honorees is set up for huge challenges in the new year. The special talents now wear an even bigger target on their back.