There were quite a few contenders for this particular award this year. Chico Kwasi, an experienced veteran, went on a three-fight win streak with GLORY and inched closer to title contention. The Romanian power-puncher Ștefan Lătescu earned himself a number of signature victories in his move down to Light Heavyweight. The standout amateur Ryuki Matsuda finally made a step up in competition and took out a solid champion in his first five-round bout.
All that being said, Chadd Collins made sure he'd be the one to take home the award in his gritty five-round title-winning performance against Petchpanomrung Kiatmuukao this past December, although it wasn't for Petchpanomrung's GLORY belt, but the RISE Super Lightweight (-65 KG) championship in the co-main of our 'Event of the Year' - RISE World Series 2023 Final Round.
To paint just how impressive this was: Petchpanomrung had only tasted defeat once at the Featherweight limit under kickboxing rules, a close and controversial loss to Robin van Roosmalen early on in his kickboxing career. That loss aside, the Thai had won 17 fights at the weight, ten of which were title fights, had the most consecutive successful title defenses in GLORY Featherweight history and second most consecutive title defenses in GLORY. Petchpanomrung had cleaned out his division twice over and seemed, more or less, undefeatable. Collins was able to make the Thai look more than human: he consistently pressured his opponent to the ropes, fatigued him with constant body work and was able to fight equally in Petchpanomrung's areas of expertise.
Not to say that Collins wasn't a known commodity. He had previously beaten Kaito Ono under Shootboxing rules, as well as two RISE champions, Naoki Tanaka and Ryota Nakano. 'The Shark' had furthermore beaten the likes of Pakorn PKSaenchaimuaythaigym, Saeksan Or. Kwanmuang and Pongsiri P.K.Saenchaimuaythaigym under Muay Thai rules as well. This obtained him notoriety with Australian Muay Thai fans and fans of Japanese kickboxing, but little notice elsewhere. Collins made sure to rectify this in his final performance of 2023.