Anatoly Malykhin Attempts to Become First Three-Division World Champion in MMA History

February 27, 2024
3 months

Reinier de Ridder is one of just three ONE Championship fighters to hold two titles at once in MMA. However, de Ridder is in danger of not having any belts around his waist should he lose his middleweight crown to Anatoly Malykhin on March 1 in Lusail, Qatar. Malykhin knocked out de Ridder in December 2022 to take the light heavyweight championship.

What Malykhin learned during the first fight is maybe de Ridder is a good matchup for him. When the two men meet this weekend, Malykhin will attempt to take de Ridder’s middleweight championship belt from him. At this point, it seems greedy for the undefeated Malykhin to cut down to 205 pounds and win another championship.

However, this presents an opportunity to land in the record books. There has never been a three-division champion in the history of MMA. Many fighters in various promotions have held two belts at once, but they have yet to figure out a way to add one more. 

Nothing indicates that even a solid fighter like de Ridder can keep up with Malykhin. Malykhin is 13-0 during his MMA career and has finished all 13 fighters. Like many Russian fighters, Malykhin has a strong grappling and wrestling background that opponents can’t keep up with.

Fighting at middleweight, where de Ridder is more comfortable, certainly intrigues the matchup. In de Ridder’s career, he has put together a 16-1 record and won 11 fights by submission. The big question for Malykhin in this bout is, will his power hold up at 205 pounds?

That is a big weight cut from heavyweight. This is a unique situation in MMA history to see one fighter going for a third championship, and it will be interesting to see if Malykhin can make that happen.

Kai and Le Set to Run It Back

The last time Tang Kai was in the cage, everything seemed good for the ONE Featherweight championship. Kai scored a unanimous decision victory that put him on top of the division by winning the championship back in August 2022. The two men were set to have a rematch in July of last year, but Kai had to pull out with a knee injury.

Thanh Le, who is the former champion, submitted Ilya Freymanov last October to pick up the interim championship. Before losing to Kai in their first fight, Le had won six fights, including winning the championship in October 2020 and defending it five months later.

Kai never had the opportunity to defend his title. Now, Kai will get a chance to show that their first fight wasn’t a fluke. During his career, Kai has built a 17-2 record, including 13 wins by knockout.

Brooks Ready for Rematch

Jarred Brooks hasn’t had an MMA bout since he won the ONE strawweight championship by winning a decision against Joshua Pacio in December 2022. What he has tried his hand at instead was attempting to win a championship in submission grappling. But Brooks would come up short in a flyweight championship bout against Mikey Musumeci.

But now that Brooks is returning to MMA, he will see a familiar foe waiting for him. Pacio is back and is ready for the rematch. Brooks is in a much different spot in his life. He became a father in November, so he has a new sense of responsibility.

The best MMA news sites show that Pacio will also be eager to get back in the cage. Pacio is one of the most accomplished strawweights in the organization’s history. Pacio has held the belt twice and made three successful title defenses during those reigns.

Bhullar Could Use Bounce Back

Canadian Arjan Bhullar should know by now that MMA isn’t the kind of sport where any opportunities can afford to be wasted. Bhullar earned a UFC contract earlier in his career and won three of his four bouts with the promotion. However, all three of his wins were by decision, and his contract wasn’t renewed when it was up.

Just two fights after signing with ONE Championship, Bhullar earned a shot at a heavyweight title and won the belt via knockout in April 2021. Due to a contract dispute, followed by a serious injury, Bhullar didn’t have an opportunity to defend his title until June 2023.

Malykhin stopped Bhullar in the third round to claim the belt. Bhullar hopes that a win over Amir Aliakbari might give him a chance to get back on a path to a championship. Aliakbari, 36, is on a three-fight winning streak.

Bhullar does have some extra motivation after recently having a baby. According to MMA news sites, Bhullar recently welcomed a third child to his family.

Grappler Ready For Debut

Osamah Almarwai has proven himself to be one of the top grapplers in the world. ONE Championship is giving him another opportunity to prove that, according to MMAfighting latest updates. Almarwai will take on Cleber Sousa in a flyweight submission grappling contest.

Alamrwai was born in Saudi Arabia and spent some time in the United States. He won the World No-Gi Championship and the Pan No-Gi Championship in 2022. Sousa is a Brazilian grappler who grew up having to sell food in the streets to help support his family. Sousa competed for the ONE flyweight submission grappling championship at ONE Fight Night 2.

Sousa lost the bout with his longtime rival Mikey Musumeci for the championship. 

The Brazilian grappler will have a tough challenge on his hands with the experienced newcomer.

Here’s a look at other fights on the card not mentioned above; they are MMA bouts unless otherwise noted:

  • Catchweight, Zuhayr Al-Qahtani vs Mehdi Zatout
  • Catchweight Muay Thai, Zafer Sayik vs. Vladimir Kuzmin
  • Flyweight Muay Thai, Zakaria El Jamari vs Ali Saldoev
  • Bantamweight Muay Thai, Han Zi Hao vs Shinji Suzuki
  • Strawweight, Keito Yamakita vs Jeremy Miado

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By Dean McHugh.