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James De Los Santos, Irish Magno win top honors in SMART The Hit List awards

The country’s top martial artists were honored on Wednesday evening by pioneering combat sports vodcast The Hit List hosted by Nissi Icasiano and Santino Honasan and powered by Smart.

Taking top honors in the first-ever Year-End awards were karateka James De Los Santos and boxer Irish Magno.

De Los Santos, who trains out of Maharlika Karatedo Kai of the Philippines International, won the Male Fighter of the Year award. He bested DyIncredible Fighting and Fitness Center’s Rolando Dy, ONE Strawweight World Champion Joshua Pacio of Team Lakay, and WBO World Bantamweight Champion John Riel Casimero.

“It is truly an honor to receive this award and recognition by Tiebreaker Times, together with SMART Sports. Thank you very much,” said De Los Santos, the no. 1 e-kata artist in the world after garnering 36 gold medals in 2020.

“What a way to end this year!”

Magno, on the other hand, was the odds-on favorite to win Female Fighter of the Year.

The 29-year-old became the first-ever Filipina boxer to qualify for the Olympics. She punched her ticket to the big dance after defeating Tajikistan’s Sumaiya Qosimova during the box-off in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament last March.

Other nominees for Female Fighter of the Year were ultra-popular poomsae artist Jocel Ninobla, mixed martial arts standout Denice Zamboanga, and karateka Junna Tsukii.

Presenting the top honors was Games and Amusements Board Chairman Baham Mitra, who paid tribute to his Philippine Sports Commission counterpart Butch Ramirez for helping groom these athletes.

Marrok Force’s Zamboanga, who had three nominations, took home Breakout Fighter of the Year.

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Zamboanga clawed her way to no. 1 contender status in ONE Championship’s stacked atomweight division by going 2-0 in 2020.

The award, which had Olympic-bound boxer Eumir Marcial, pro boxer Mike Plania, and mixed martial artist Lito Adiwang as the other nominees, was presented by Muaythai Association of the Philippines secretary-general and Philippine Olympic Committee board member Pearl Managuelod.

For his inspirational run in 2020, Dy, who competes in BRAVE CF, won Comeback of the Year.

After struggling in 2019, Dy, who trains out of his own gym, did the unthinkable, competing twice in Bahrain from September to November. He defeated Maciek Gierszewski and John Brewin to become the top contender in the lightweight division.

Other nominees for the award that was presented by Wrestling Association of the Philippines chief and Universal Reality Combat Championship founder Alvin Aguilar were poomsae Under-40 Male world champion Ernesto Guzman, Survival MMA’s Roel Rosauro, and Team Lakay’s Honorio Banario.

Casimero, who dominated in his title defense against Duke Micah last September 26 was hailed as the Performance of the Year. Awarding the honor was Samahang Kickboxing sa Pilipinas executive director Randy Caluag.

The other nominees were Lito Adiwang’s first round kimura win over Pongsiri Mitsatit during ONE: Fire and Fury; James Bacon’s back-to-back KO of Gonzalo Carlos Dallera and Roque Agustin Junco; and Zamboanga’s 213-second blitz of Watsapinya Kaewkhong back in ONE: A New Breed.

Last but not the least was the Fight of the Year, which was given to Pacio’s thriller against Alex Silva back in ONE: Fire and Fury, which was awarded by Jiu-Jitsu Federation of the Philippines assistant sec-gen TJ Sulit.

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Other classics that were nominated were Mike Plania vs Joshua Greer during Top Rank Boxing’s June card; Mark Magsayo vs Rigoberto Hermosillo during FS1 PBC Fight Night’s October card; and Denice Zamboanga vs Mei Yamaguchi during ONE: King of the Jungle.

A surprise awaits the winners come 2021.

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