It was another banner year for Asian mixed martial arts (MMA) in 2013, with cards taking place across the continent every single weekend. ONE FC did shows in Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines and Jakarta, while Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returned to Japan for the second year in succession.
Meanwhile, Road FC put on six cards in Korea, between them the URCC and PXC did 10 shows in Philippines and there were countless cards in Japan with Shooto, Pancrase, Deep and VTJ all going strong, while Dare returned to Thailand. In addition, the CTN broadcast network in Cambodia started hosting weekly events and the SFL put on another series of events in Mumbai, India.
The Asian MMA scene is growing so rapidly that it is increasingly difficult to keep track of, but as more promotion's start to stream their events online, it is possible to watch more fights than ever before. With that said, check out the "2013 Asian MMA Awards" below:
"Fighter of the Year:"
Hyun Gyu Lim introduced himself to UFC fans in devastating style with back-to-back knockout wins. He only fought twice, but both fights were brief and brutal with Marcelo Guimaraes dispatched with a brutal knee in the second round at UFC on Fuel TV 8 and Pascal Krauss taken out with a flurry of punches followed by a knee at UFC 164.
It has been well documented that Asian fighters have sometimes struggled to make the transition to UFC, but Lim --who wasn't even a particularly big name in Asia -- is taking the welterweight division by storm. And if he can beat Tarec Saffiedine in similar style on Jan. 4, 2014, a title shot could be on the agenda in 2015.
Other candidates include Takeya Mizugaki who went undefeated (3-0) for UFC, but only courtesy of a couple of split decisions, Dong Hyun Kim who was perfect (2-0), but not in quite the same emphatic style as fellow Korean welterweight Lim and Michinori Tanaka, who also went unscathed (3-0) fighting for PXC, winning and defending the 135 lbs belt in the process.
"Fight of the Year"
Doo Ho Choi vs Shoji Maruyama . Doo Ho Choi was expected to make short work of Shoji Maruyama in his Deep swan song, but there was nothing comfortable about this win with the Korean prodigy repeatedly rocked throughout the opening round.
Choi showed remarkable powers of recovery to repeatedly get back to his feet and return fire only to get dropped again early in the second round. It seemed the MMA upset of the year was on the card until the Korean (who subsequently signed with UFC) staggered the Japanese journeyman with an upkick and then put him away with a perfectly timed right hook.
Other contenders include the war between Wanderlei Silva and Brian Stann at UFC on Fuel TV 8, Joachim Hansen's second round arm triangle submission of Doo Won Seo at Road FC 11 (when the Norwegian was seconds away from tapping to a guillotine at the end of the first), Koji Oishi's come-from-behind stoppage win over Honorio Banario to win the ONE FC 145-pound title and Yui Chul Nam's controversial extra round decision win over Takasuke Kume in their Lightweight title fight at Road FC 12.
"Submission of the Year"
Caol Uno scored three submission wins in 2013, but he saved the most impressive for last, submitting Daniel Romero with an inverted triangle choke from side control in the second round at VTJ 3rd. The Japanese veteran had taken a beating in the opening round and had to come from behind to find the finish, his second in succession against a Team Alpha Male-trained opponent
Jang Yong Kim comes in a narrow second place after his leg scissor choke submission of Mark Striegl in the third round of their PXC title fight, while Kyoji Horiguchi and Shinya Aoki both warrant a mention for second round rear naked chokes, which won titles, the former against Hiromasa Ogikubo to claim the Shooto 132-pound strap and the latter against Kotetsu Boku for ONE FC 155-pound honors.
"Knockout of the Year"
Ikuhuhisa "Minowaman" Minowa celebrated his 100th fight in style with a one punch knockout of Hoon Kim at Road FC 13. In truth Minowaman is something of a journeyman these days and it is years since he beat an an opponent of note but this was the perfect way for the 37 year old to mark a major career milestone.
On any other year Kevin Belingon would probably have walked away with this award for his one punch KO of the previously undefeated David Santacana at ONE FC: "Moment of Truth," while the knee with which Hyun Gyu Lim finished Marcelo Guimaraes would also have been a worthy winner.
"Camp of the Year"
Evolve MMA boasts an impressive 87.5 percent win ratio over the course of the year with Shinya Aoki winning the ONE FC 155-pound belt, Irshaed Sayed winning the RUFF 135-pound belt and Rafael Dos Anjos moving closer and closer to a UFC title shot as Chatri Sityodtong's camp, which recently added Ben Askren to the fight team, cemented its status as the most dominant in Asia.
Phuket Top Team has been one of the busiest camps with the Leone brothers doing well at Bellator and ONE FC and Rob Lisita edging ever closer to UFC contracts. Korean Top Team lost Chan Sung Jung, but still saw Hyun Gyu Lim star for UFC and Jang Yong Kim win the PXC 145-pound belt, while at Team Posse Yui Chul Nam won the Road FC 155-pound belt and signed with UFC, while teammate Bae Young Kwon beat a couple of Japanese veterans.
"Promotion of the Year"
ONE FC is going to be winning this award for the forseeable future unless something dramatic changes in Asia. The Singapore-based promotion put on successful shows in Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines and Malaysia and demonstrated that it can go head-to-head with any organization in the world when it comes to signing fighters with the eye catching acquisition of undefeated former Bellator Welterweight champion Ben Askren.
In terms of Pan Asian promotions, the demise of Legend FC effectively ended any competition, but there are plenty of domestic organizations doing well like Road FC in Korea and Pancrase, VTJ, Shooto and Deep in Japan, while PXC's foray into Filipino territory has been a successful one.