Asia’s mixed martial arts scene has simply gone from strength to strength over the past 12 months. China has seen its first UFC champ in strawweight Zhang “Magnum” Weili crowned, the Singapore-based One Championship has shaken things up for the first time in Japan with three monster cards, and the region’s potential – in terms of both fighters and audiences – has been on show each and every week across promotions everywhere. But we here at SCMP Martial Arts are now looking forward, and to the stars we feel can carry the sport onwards into 2020 and, in most cases, far beyond. So we’re counting down our top 20 Asian fighters, across all divisions and promotions. You can check out Part 1, featuring Nos 20-16 , and here are Nos 15-11: View this post on Instagram 응원해주신 모든분들께 감사합니다 죄송합니다 일단 생각을 많이 해봐야 할 것 같아요 수술하고 쉬는동안 생각많이하고 오겠습니다! Thank you for your support fans, family, friends and team. I am sorry i think I have to think a lot about the whole thing. First i need to get a surgery and think a lot while i am resting A post shared by 최두호 (Doo Ho Choi) (@koreansuperboy) on Dec 21, 2019 at 6:23pm PST 15. Choi “The Korean Superboy” Doo-ho (UFC) Age: 28 . Country: South Korea . Record: 14-4 . Weight: Featherweight Think past the 0-3 streak that was stamped by Choi’s second-round TKO loss to Charles “Air” Jourdain (10-2) at UFC Fight Night 165 in Busan this past Saturday. Focus instead on the fact that the 28-year-old now has five fight bonuses in a row. The Korean Superboy throws – and receives – volumes, a style that has endeared him to the MMA faithful but one that also means things can always go either way, in a second. That’s why Choi has only gone the distance once in the past eight years – in an utter barnburner that went the way of American Cub Swanson (26-11) back at UFC 206 in 2016. It was later named fight of the year. The Team Mad product is box-office gold for his UFC masters and has age on his side, so once Choi gets the little matter of compulsory military service out of the way he can turn his attention back to the fight game full-time. The one-time Deep stand-out has also battled a series of injuries – including a broken forearm against Jourdain – so while we have seen some highlight reel stuff in the past there remains a sense that we’re yet to see his best. As crazy as that may sound. Next fight: N/A 13 (tie). Xiong “The Panda” Jingnan (One Championship) Age: 31 . Country: China . Record: 14-2 . Weight class: Strawweight The evolution of “The Panda” has been a joy to watch over the past two years. It all came to a head on one wild night inside the famed Ryōgoku Kokugikan as One Championship made its debut in Japan and Xiong made the night her own, battering the previously “Unstoppable” Angela Lee (10-2) until the ref called it all over in the fifth. Perhaps we should have known better. The 31-year-old has spent a career – a lifetime, maybe – proving the doubters wrong, transitioning from weightlifting to boxing and then on to a sport that was up until recently still way out there on the fringes of Chinese society. One’s strawweight champ has grown in stature both inside and outside the cage since signing on in 2017, and further work on her ground game – and her pacing – will make it tough for anyone in the division to take The Panda’s crown. There are tests ahead, though, as One expands its strawweight ranks. That Lee was able to recoup, find her mojo again, and defend her own atomweight title against Xiong in October means the third episode of this particular drama must surely loom on the horizon. Next fight: N/A Angela “Unstoppable” Lee (One Championship) Age: 23 . Country: Singapore . Record: 10-2 . Weight class: Atomweight There were so many outside forces weighing on Lee coming in to 2019 that cracks were bound to appear. A car crash and lingering injuries had kept her to just the one fight in 2018. This past year then started with the first loss of Lee’s career as she went up a weight class to take on Xiong “The Panda” Jingnan (14-2) and she fell under a flurry of strikes in the fifth. More of a shock was the loss to Michelle Nicolini (6-2) in July – still at strawweight and with Lee never coming close to finding any sort of range or rhythm. But the bounce-back came in October, down to the atomweight division Lee has made her own and again up against Xiong. Lee simply looked a different fighter in defending her title, pretzeling Xiong on occasions and wearing any punches that came her way. That she’s still just 23 shouldn’t be forgotten, and a consistent run against tough opponents will see Lee’s stock continue to rise as she improves her impressive natural game on the ground, and develops into more of a threat when it comes to the stand-up business. “That last win was a great feeling especially when all the hard work pays off in the fight, and I'm so proud of how far I came this year,” Lee said. A rematch with The Panda is a must – at either weight – and it will be another barnburner. Next fight: N/A 12. Joshua “The Passion” Pacio (One Championship) Age: 23 . Country: Philippines . Record: 15-3 . Weight class: Flyweight A title lost. A title regained. A title defended. And by the end of the year we heard One’s strawweight champion saying he thought his career was only just beginning. How true. Pacio is 18 fights in but still only 23 and the Team Lakay prodigy has matured immensely since his first crack at the title back in 2016. Back then, Pacio was just 20 and was worn down by the wily Yoshitaka “Nobita” Naito (15-3). The years since have seen the former wushu stand-out expand his own repertoire, along with his experience. Pacio has been among the most active fighters on the One roster, with nine fights in three years. It was his final fight of 2019 – a title defence against compatriot Rene “D. Challenger” Catalan (6-3-1) – that really showcased how far the lad has come, so quickly. Worried in the early exchanges by the veteran, Pacio stuck closely to what was obviously a precise fight plan, closed down the space, stalked his opponent and slipped in the triangle midway through the second. The gulf in class was plain to see. Pacio is up early in One’s roll-out for 2020, against former champ Alex “Little Rock” Silva (9-4). It’s a huge test but we’re expecting more improvement – and plenty more excitement – from “The Passion” as the year plays out. Next fight: vs Alex “Little Rock” Silva (9-4), One: Fire and Fury, Manila, January 31. View this post on Instagram . 対抗戦頑張ります 応援よろしくお願いします！！！ . . #TEAMRIZIN #騎馬戦 #ハチマキ #神風#必勝#絶対合格 #BELLATOR #RIZIN #対抗戦 #次鋒 #全米生中継 #フジテレビ #mma #女子格闘技 #総合格闘技 #柔道 #筋肉女子 #柔の美獣 A post shared by kana watanabe×渡辺華奈 (@kana_0821) on Dec 18, 2019 at 3:11am PST 11. Kana Watanabe (Rizin/Bellator) Age: 31 . Country: Japan . Record: 8-0-1 . Weight: Flyweight Japan is blessed by a wealth of talent in its women’s ranks, both of the proven variety (think Rin Nakai and Ayaka Hamasaki) and those – like Watanabe – who might just be ready to show something special. The 31-year-old is a judo monster and what we’ve loved so far is how Watanabe has been able to bully her opponents while also being able to land ferocious combinations. It’s a lethal combination. Watanabe remains unbeaten, through the likes of Deep Jewels and Rizin, and impressively so. The one worry is the calibre of opponent Watanabe has faced but what we like is the fact she has kept stepping up – along with the fact that last December she took just 11 seconds to dismantle veteran star Shizuka Sugiyama (18-6-1). That was as brutal as it was brilliant and left us thinking that Watanabe has more – much more – to show the world. We’re hoping to see some of that magic before the year’s out as Watanabe tests the waters in Bellator against Ilara “Arya Stark” Joanne (9-4). Next fight: vs Ilara “Arya Stark” Joanne (9-4), Bellator 237, Tokyo, December 28.