2019 was a standout year for ONE Championship with the debuts of Eddie Alvarez and Demetrious Johnson as well as the addition of former UFC champion Vitor Belfort. The Singapore-based company also showcased the continued emergence of Asian stars and budding rivalries that highlighted much of the year.
There are plenty of dream matches to think about for the new year. Here are seven that we'd like to see in 2020.
Rodtang Jitmuangnon vs. Jonathan Haggerty II
This is cheating a bit because the match has already been scheduled for Friday, but it's a rematch that ONE fans have wanted to see since their first meeting in August.
The most technically advanced ONE match of 2019 was Haggerty vs. Rodtang. Haggerty, a Briton who made a name for himself after his upset win over Sam-A Gaiyanghadao for the muay thai flyweight championship in May, took on Rodtang, who was 4-0 in ONE.
The 22-year-olds exchanged big strikes for the duration of the bout, jawing at each other while doing so. One kick from Haggerty nearly sent Rodtang out of the ring in the first round before the Thai rallied in the championship rounds to earn a unanimous decision.
The Manila, Philippines, crowd grew louder during intermissions as both competitors egged the fans on in what was an electric atmosphere. Their rematch should be another muay thai masterclass, especially considering it'll take place in Rodtang's hometown of Bangkok.
Watch it at 8:30 a.m. ET Friday for free on B/R Live.
Xiong Jing Nan vs. Angela Lee III
Although this rubber match isn't set in stone, it would be quite surprising to not see it occur in 2020—and sooner rather than later.
The two most dominant female competitors in the promotion's MMA division met for the first time last March as Lee returned from a back injury that kept her out of action for five months.
It was the female strawweight division's best striker in Xiong Jing Nan against one of the best submission specialists in Lee, and they still managed to exceed the lofty expectations that came with their meeting in what was a Match of the Year candidate. Xiong defeated Lee by fifth-round TKO after she miraculously withstood an armbar for nearly 90 seconds to conclude the fourth.
The two foes rematched in the main event of a stacked ONE: Century card that was part of the first nationally televised ONE broadcast in the U.S. This time, Lee, the ONE atomweight champion, relied on her world-class mat work to tap out Xiong via rear-naked choke in another fifth-round classic.
As a result, a trilogy match is likely in 2020. Lee told B/R Live she has her mind set on going after Xiong's strawweight belt at 125 pounds once again. If so, ONE could crown its first two-division female champion in 2020.
Angela Lee vs. Stamp Fairtex
Once Angela Lee returns to the atomweight division and defends her crown at 115, she's going to need a new challenger. Who better than the current ONE kickboxing and ONE muay thai atomweight world champion Stamp Fairtex?
The 22-year-old, ONE's first two-sport champion, fully transitioned to mixed martial arts last August in hopes of becoming an unprecedented three-sport titleholder. She boasts a 3-0 record and said after her most recent win that she wants a shot at Lee's title in 2020. However, Stamp also said she'll likely need two or three more wins before realistically challenging for it.
If Stamp can dominate in her next couple of matches, expect the Thai to get a title shot by the end of the year.
Adriano Moraes vs. Demetrious Johnson
ONE's greatest flyweight against the greatest flyweight of all time is a match that must be booked in 2020. After Demetrious Johnson defeated three of the best flyweights the promotion has to offer in 2019 and won the ONE world grand prix last October, it's clear Mighty Mouse has to challenge ONE 135-pound champion Adriano Moraes next.
Moraes hasn't fought since January of last year when he defeated Geje Eustaquio for the title and became the only three-time champion in ONE history, but the 30-year-old has also defeated the best of the best in the flyweight division in route to an 18-3 overall record.
Johnson feels confident the Moraes bout will happen, telling B/R Live he believes he'll get his title shot at some point in 2020.
Christian Lee vs. Eddie Alvarez
If this match does happen, it'll likely take place later in the year as lightweight world champion Christian Lee told B/R Live he'd like to see former UFC and Bellator titleholder Eddie Alvarez pick up one more quality win at ONE before challenging for his belt at 170.
In fairness to Lee's request, The Underground King is only 1-1 since making the move to the company. Starting last year with a surprising loss against Timofey Nastyukhin and following it up with a comeback win against Eduard Folayang in his most recent bout last August, Alvarez has since been nursing an ankle injury but told B/R Live he's now medically cleared.
A match between ONE's star 21-year-old and arguably the most decorated lightweight in MMA history would be quite the draw.
Eddie Alvarez vs. Saygid Arslanaliev, Shinya Aoki or Garry Tonon
Eddie Alvarez likely needs one more good win before challenging Christian Lee for the lightweight title, and Saygid Arslanaliev, Shinya Aoki and Garry Tonon are all worthy next opponents for different reasons.
Alvarez and Arslanaliev were supposed to face each other in the lightweight world grand prix final in October, but the former pulled out with an ankle injury. Rebooking their match would make obvious sense.
Aoki faced Alvarez twice before in 2008 and 2012, defeating him in their first meeting in Japan for the WAMMA lightweight championship before Alvarez evened the odds four years later at Bellator 66 in Cleveland. A trilogy match could be in the cards.
A showdown with Tonon is probably the most unlikely as he's only five matches into his MMA career, but the 28-year-old American is undefeated and maybe the best jiu-jitsu practitioner in the world. ONE booking Tonon in his first marquee match would show how highly it feels about him and offer a unique contrast of styles between the striking of Alvarez and ground game of one of the world's best grapplers.
Vitor Belfort vs. Aung La N Sang or Cosmo Alexandre
Former UFC light heavyweight champion Vitor Belfort will likely make his ONE debut in 2020, and how the promotion will go about booking him is still a bit of a mystery.
The dream match for fans would be for The Phenom to take on light heavyweight champion Aung La N Sang. The Myanmar native poses by far the biggest threat to Belfort in a slim division at ONE and showed that he is more than capable of defeating him after impressive knockout victories over Ken Hasegawa and Brandon Vera last year.
However, it seems like neither is interested in competing against each other at the moment. As Sang told ONE, he's shutting the door on going against someone he regularly trains with:
"Vitor and I are brothers. He and I talk all the time, and there is no way I would fight him. He and I train together. I don't think what I want and what he wants are the same. We're not after the same thing. I'll be in his training camp. I'll be helping him get ready for his ONE Championship debut. Whoever it is against, I'll be helping him get ready for it. But I don't see myself ever fighting Vitor."
If ONE can't make that match happen, why not capitalize on Cosmo Alexandre's most recent victory after he impressively knocked out Sage Northcutt in 29 seconds last May?
The 37-year-old told MMA Fighting's Guilherme Cruz that he's not interested in going after titles this late in his career and is more focused on making money with three matches left on his ONE contract. A match against Belfort would certainly make for a nice payday and an entertaining meeting between a legend of the sport and a former world champion kickboxer.