ONE Championship’s heavyweight division has entered a new era since Anatoly Malykhin unified the world title against Arjan Bhullar last month.

The ever-evolving weight class now has an active and fiery king who is constantly looking for his next challenge, and that gives the growing list of contenders waiting in line something to push for. 

Malykhin will return to the iconic Lumpinee Boxing Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand, this Saturday, July 15, to watch ONE Fight Night 12: Superlek vs. Khalilov play out, and he’ll have his eyes focused on one particular battle on the card.

Heavyweight giants Amir Aliakbari and Dustin Joynson are set to collide at the star-studded event, and the winner could well cement themselves as a contender to “Sladkiy’s” newly acquired gold.

Analyzing the combustible matchup, Malykhin said: “I reckon Aliakbari is just being given easy opponents. Dustin is an average fighter; he’s a bit old and hasn’t shown any good results. He lost to (Kirill) Grishenko. 

“So, Aliakbari just thinks he’s winning now and that he’s found his game. When he meets me, I’ll show him his place again and show him what he can really do.”

Aliakbari is currently enjoying the best form of his ONE career after scoring consecutive first-round stoppages against Mauro Cerilli and Brandon Vera, respectively.

With his clinical performances and dominant wins giving him some notoriety in the heavyweight division, rumors have begun to circulate about the Iranian star being next in line for Malykhin.

The pair met at ONE: Revolution in September 2021, with the future ONE heavyweight world champion scoring a highlight-reel knockout over Aliakbari in the opening round.

Having gone from strength to jaw-dropping strength since then, “Sladkiy”, unsurprisingly, remains unfazed by the challenge, and he vows that he will finish him quicker than before if they meet again.

“I will be at this event, and if he challenges me, I will step into the cage and take that fight. And I’ll show him that he can’t do anything against me,” Malykhin expressed.

“What can he do to a double champion? I’ll just knock him out even faster than I did last time. I’m on a whole different level. 

“If he challenges me, I’ll take that fight. I’m ready to fight him in September/October. If (Reinier) de Ridder is not ready, I’m ready in September/October to smash him in that ring.”