The 2018 Asia MMA Awards was a wildly entertaining and successful night that reflected on the greatest moments the sport witnessed from the middle of 2017 to 2018. Around 200 of Asian MMA’s major players descended on Hong Kong for the black tie gala.

More from Fightline

The Fight Nation congratulates all the winners, nominees, promoters and gyms for their contributions to the development of MMA in Asia. TFN was honoured by those in attendance for their support of this massive undertaking, which will serve as the benchmark of performance in Asian MMA for years to come.

“I think this event tonight shows how far the sport has come in the region,” said the UFC’s vice-president of Asia-Pacific Kevin Chang. “Ten years ago it was a different landscape. Nobody really knew was MMA was. Now look around us.”

It was a big night for the UFC, who picked up three awards. The UFC’s first foray into mainland China was hailed as the Event of the Year. South Korea’s “Mr Perfect” Kang Kyung-Ho (14-8-0-1) accepted the Submission of the Year for the triangle choke that finished Guido “Ninja’” Cannetti (8-3) at UFC Fight Night 127. The UFC’s wildly popular Red Dela Cruz was also up on stage to accept the Ring Girl of The Year award.

The Event of the Year, UFC Shanghai: Bisping vs Gastelum, was staged at a sold out Mercedes Benz Arena last November and was highlighted by the strength and depth of talent showcased by Chinese fighters, including Male Fighter of the Year nominee Li “The Leech” Jingliang (14-5) and featherweight Song “The Terminator” Yadong (12-3), who picked up Performance of the Night bonuses for their efforts.

“Shanghai was an extra special event because of how much legwork went on before it. I was a great success and it was a launching pad for bigger things for us,” said the UFC’s vice-president Asia-Pacific Kevin Chang.

ONE Championship’s dual-belted king Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen and ROAD FC champion Ham Seo-Hee, the number one-ranked female atomweight in the world, were handed crowns as the Asia MMA Awards’ Male and Female Fighters of the Year.

For the Vietnamese-Australian Nguyen (11-3) the award caps off an incredible run that saw him capture ONE’s world featherweight and lightweight belts – both via knockout.

“It’s been an amazing journey,” said Nguyen. “I’m so honoured to be here and to accept this award. I said to myself at the start of 2017 that this is the year that I’ll be champion – and here I am. I’d like to thank ONE for being behind me and giving me the opportunities, and I’d like to thank my wife Brooke for always having my back. My team are always pushing me in the right direction and when you have a great team around you, you can do anything.”

South Korean Ham Seo-Hee (18-8) was also there to share the spotlight and to raise a glass to a year that has seen her win the title against another champion and defend it with a knock out over number two-ranked Jinh Yu Frey.

“It has been a great 12 months for me and I am proud to be here among all these fighters,” said the 31-year-old. “I have a lot more to show the world and am ready to defend my title against anyone.”

Fight of the Year was awarded to the bantamweight bout between Moon Jea-Hoon (10-11) and Asakura Kai (5-1) at ROAD FC 039 – a true epic battle that ended when Moon landed the knockout blow with seconds remaining in the third. Moon was overjoyed to accept his award and simply shouted, “I love MMA!”

Hong Kong’s own heavyweight Alain “The Panther” Ngalani (4-4, one no contest) was handed the Knockout of the Year award for his historic 13 second thunder clap on Hideki “Shrek” Sekine (7-2) at ONE: Total Victory in Jakarta. The applause during his acceptance was thunderous as well.

Philippine bantamweight hero Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon (19-5) earned Best Walkout for the traditional Ifugao tribe song that takes him out into battle in ONE Championship.

“The Asia MMA Awards are a celebration of all the things we love about the sport and pay tribute to the people who get in that cage and put on a show for us all,” said Matt Eaton, founder and CEO of Hong Kong-based Tap Media, parent company of TFN.

“We want to give these fighters the recognition they are due, and honour those who are sometimes missed by the spotlight, from head coaches to gym owners, photographers, ring girls and the brands that support the fighters on their journey.”

The Asia MMA Awards gala dinner was supported by Hong Kong’s top craft brewery Young Masters, Harley Davidson, Opro, Tune Talk, Cellarmaster Wines, production agency RESET, digital and virtual reality agency Shadow Factory, plus Mojo Nomad hotels.

As the publisher of TFN, ASIA MMA and ROUGH, TAP Media is the dominant producer of MMA and combat sports news and features in Asia.

2018 Asia MMA Awards Winners

Best Walkout – Kevin Belingon, ONE Championship

Photographer of the Year – David Ash

Best Technical Equipment – Venum

Amateur Fighter of the Year – Theebaan Govindasamy, MIMMA

Best Destination Gym – Tiger Muay Thai & MMA

Ring Girl of the Year – Red Dela Cruz, UFC

Event of the Year – UFC Shanghai: Bisping vs. Gastelum

Most Functional Clothing Brand – Reebok

Rookie of the Year – Hwang In-Su, ROAD FC

Gym of the Year – Team Lakay
Submission of the Year – Kang Kyung-Ho subs. Guido Cannetti (triangle) – UFC Fight Night 127

Head Coach of the Year – George Hickman, Tiger Muay Thai & MMA

Knockout of the Year – Alain Ngalani KO’d Hideki Sekine – ONE: Total Victory

TFN Readers’ Choice Award – Max Leali

Fight of the Year – Moon Jea-Hoon vs. Asakura Kai, ROAD FC

Male Fighter of the Year – Martin Nguyen, ONE Championship

Female Fighter of the Year – Ham Seo-Hee, ROAD FC