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ONE Championship’s 3 Breakout Stars Of 2022

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2022 is done, and 2023 is looking to be another monster year for ONE Championship. But when looking back at the year that was, there are a plethora of takeaways to be had. Perhaps there are no bigger ramifications than the athletes who truly broke out and made their status known in 2022.

There were many new debuts, athletes who made their way into contendership, and six new mixed martial arts champions crowned. The wild year is only looking to become crazier in the new year, with ONE making landfall in the U.S. But after examining all of the fallout from the past 12 months, here are three ONE athletes who made their presence too big to deny as breakout stars.

Fabricio Andrade

Since arriving in ONE in 2020, Fabricio Andrade has put on a show and become a fan-favorite. In 2022, he took it even further by rising to become one of the best mixed martial artists in the world. Although the year ended without gold around his waist, Andrade showed why that is how he may begin 2023.

Andrade first stepped inside the Circle at ONE: Full Circle in February against Jeremy Pacatiw. A highlight-reel knee to the body put an early end to the bout at 97 seconds. In a title eliminator three months later, Andrade ended Kwon Won Il with a body kick in 62 seconds. It all set up a meeting with John Lineker.

Andrade looked outstanding in his bid to win the ONE Bantamweight World Championship. However, an errant knee below the belt put a stop to the bout and resulted in a no-contest. Still, “Wonder Boy” showed out in 2022. And at 25 years old, he still has so much more room to grow. Fans are seeing a special talent take over the bantamweight division, and 2023 looks exceptionally bright for the Brazilian.

Tang Kai

China’s Tang Kai entered 2022 on an eight-bout winning streak. He was quickly rising up the ranks in the featherweight division with his exciting performances but still needed a big win to push him into the challenger’s position. That chance would come in March at ONE X against Kim Jae Woong.

In a bout expected to be an absolute slugfest between two top featherweights, Tang closed the show before the first round. The bonus-winning victory made him the clear-cut top contender for Thanh Le and the ONE Featherweight World Championship. And heading into the matchup, the clash of strikers was a compelling stylistic matchup to see who could implement their game.

At ONE 160, Tang put on a mesmerizing display by shutting down Le’s movement and hammering him with power shots. The tactical battle went the distance, and history was made when the scorecards were read. Tang’s ascent was completed by becoming China’s first-ever major MMA World Champion. With a country behind him, Tang is entering 2023 with the momentum to become a major worldwide superstar.

Anatoly Malykhin

Anatoly Malykhin had already made waves in ONE with two knockout victories in 2021. After his debut year showed his power, he was a known threat to all in the heavyweight division. However, it was still unknown just how far he would take it in 2022.

He was quick to take the ONE Interim Heavyweight World Championship in February. Malykhin defeated Kirill Grishenko for the title by a second-round knockout. His charismatic personality captured the imagination of fans as he continued his funny callouts on social media of ONE Heavyweight World Champion Arjan Bhullar.

But it was not the heavyweight title that put Malykhin on the radar of the global audience by year’s end. Instead, an unexpected shot at the ONE Light Heavyweight World Title against Reinier De Ridder at ONE on Prime Video 5 would do that. Malykhin crushed De Ridder inside of the first round.

With 2023 rolling in, Malykhin still has incredible growth on the horizon. The two-division champion has the skills and personality to transcend into the next stratosphere of stardom and bolster ONE’s 2023 campaign. The 34-year-old could be entering pound-for-pound lists by year’s end.

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Jeremy Brand is an experienced MMA writer and columnist. He is the founder of, and has represented the company with media credentials at many mixed martial arts fights. Jeremy is also a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, training in BC, Canada.

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