Top 5 ONE Championship Matches of 2020

Haris KruskicContributor IDecember 23, 2020

ONE Championship

The pandemic forced ONE Championship to host fewer events than it normally would in a calendar year, but there were still tremendous matches that took place under the Singapore-based promotion in 2020.

There were dozens of bouts worthy of consideration, but which were the best of the best? Here are the top five ONE Championship matches of the year based on quality of the bouts, excitement and enjoyment.


5. Xiong Jing Nan vs. Tiffany Teo

Result: Xiong def. Teo by decision

It seems like Xiong has a top match every year. Both of her bouts against Angela Lee in 2019 were match-of-the-year candidates at ONE, and she continued her streak of remarkable matches when she defended her strawweight title against Teo last October.

It was a battle of Xiong's striking against the ground game and spirit of Teo, who was looking to redeem her loss against the champion from two years ago.

Ultimately, Xiong prevailed, but these two women went at it for five rounds.


4. Kiamrian Abbasov vs. James Nakashima

Result: Abbasov def. Nakashima by fourth-round TKO

Heading into this match, Nakashima was a 12-0 American who looked to be next in line for ONE gold. He was dominating the welterweight division with wrestling that made him a standout at the University of Nebraska.

For the first three rounds of his match with Abbasov, Nakashima controlled the pace and kept away from the Kyrgyzstani champion's striking. However, the fourth round proved to be his downfall.

As Nakashima went in for another takedown, Abbasov landed a huge knee and wobbled his challenger (33:24 in the clip above). From there on, a series of punches and kicks ended the match and sealed a massive comeback victory for Abbasov to cement his first title defense.


3. Stamp Fairtex vs. Janet Todd

Result: Todd def. Stamp by decision

This was a rematch of a muay thai bout that Stamp and Todd had last year when the former narrowly defeated the latter. This time, their rivalry transcended into another sport when they competed in kickboxing for Stamp's atomweight championship.

It was a back-and-forth affair for five rounds, with neither competitor wanting to give the other any air. They put on a masterclass in kickboxing and had the best non-MMA match at ONE in 2020. In the end, Todd became just the second American ONE champion and first to do so outside of MMA.


2. Joshua Pacio vs. Alex Silva

Result: Pacio def. Silva by decision

You won't find a more technical match from ONE in 2020 than this one.

Silva, a jiu-jitsu black belt who has defeated nearly every one of his opponents by submission, came into the match looking to do the same against strawweight world champion Pacio. What was expected to be a battle between the mat work of Silva and the striking of Pacio turned into a showcase of both competitors' ground games. That was always going to be Silva's plan, but no one could have imagined the elite grappling defense of Pacio.

For every submission attempt Silva threw at the champion, Pacio had an answer for it. His hometown Filipino crowd loved what they were seeing and were heavily invested throughout all five rounds and made for the best atmosphere ONE was able to have this year.

Although Pacio was declared the winner, it could have gone either way.


1. Martin Nguyen vs. Thanh Le

Result: Le def. Nguyen by third-round TKO

Highly anticipated matches don't often live up to the lofty expectations put on them in the buildup. However, that was not the case for Nguyen vs. Le.

Heading in, Nguyen was the top knockout artist ONE had to offer. It seemed like every match he was part of ended in dramatic fashion. That continued to be the case when he took on Le, but this time he was on the wrong side of the result.

After two rounds, it was clear Nguyen struggled with Le's taekwondo style. He just couldn't quite get a good read on his stance and where exactly his strikes were going to come from. To compensate for this, Nguyen pressured Le immediately at the start of the third round and landed some heavy punches that clearly bothered his opponent.

It seemed like Nguyen was headed for another knockout to add to his resume until Le responded with a crisp right hand that came out of nowhere (26:19 in the clip above). Le took advantage of a hurt Nguyen and continued with an onslaught of punches until the referee came in to stop the match.

That third round was the best of ONE's 2020 and propels it to the top spot in these rankings.


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