Anatoly Malykhin needed just four minutes and 35 seconds to hand two-division ONE world champion Reinier de Ridder the first loss of his professional career and earn the biggest honor of his own.
Not only did Malykhin – the reigning ONE interim heavyweight world champion – capture his rival’s light heavyweight strap, but he also became the first MMA fighter in ONE Championship history to defeat a two-division titleholder and become a dual-weight champion himself.
But that journey began with a single step decades prior.
In fact, it was through the Russian’s grandfather that he entered combat sports in the first place. Freestyle wrestling provided Malykhin with his first taste of physical competition, a thriving aspect of the sport that sank its hooks into the young “Sladkiy.”
Malykhin’s passion for freestyle wrestling evolved as he began to medal in national tournaments. His awesome strength and heightened techniques allowed him to manhandle the competition, helping him to earn prestigious accolades including a bronze medal at the 2013 Russian Freestyle Wrestling Championships as well as the Master of Sport title in his native homeland.
After a strenuous wrestling career, Malykhin turned his attention to MMA and his elite grappling skills came in quite handy. The powerhouse’s talents enabled him to transition to the all-encompassing sport almost effortlessly.
Entering a sport where wrestling abilities are key, the Russian knew he had an advantage against his fellow heavyweights. But it was in this sporting facet where he discovered the thunderous power inside of him.
Malykhin began in Russia’s amateur ranks in 2017, where he announced himself as a promising heavyweight prospect, winning the 2017 WMMAA World Championships and later defeating former ACB World Champion Salimgerey Rasulov by knockout in the Russian Amateur MMA Championship.
“Sladkiy” carried his momentum into the professional scene, quickly compiling an 8-0 record with a 100 percent finishing rate and defeating the likes of veterans Jake Heun and Baga Agaev.
That led to a contract with ONE Championship in 2020. And when he finally signed with a major organization, it seemed to only motivate him even more.
The Kemerovo native continued where he left off with a pair of knockouts inside the first frame, this time against former ONE world title challenger Alexandre Machado in his debut and then against Greco-Roman wrestling world champion Amir Aliakbari in his sophomore appearance.
Following those destructive outings, it was clear Malykhin was ready for the big time. With the heavyweight division at a standstill due to Arjan Bhullar’s contract negotiations, the Russian found himself locking horns with Kirill Grishenko for the ONE interim heavyweight title in February 2022.
It served as the first bout to outlast the first round in the Russian’s ONE career. However, he didn’t let Grishenko last much further, stopping him with a brutal one-punch knockout in the second frame.
Now with gold firmly over his shoulder, Malykhin’s competitive fire burned too hot to remain inactive. His ambition saw him drop to light heavyweight in a bid to become a two-division ONE champion.
To end an illustrious 2022, the Russian made quick work of the previously 16-0 middleweight and light heavyweight king with a highlight-reel KO of the ages.
Despite the accolades and the glory that came with the most impressive performance of his career to date, there is only one man the 12-0 powerhouse desires to get a grip on next: ONE heavyweight champion, Arjan Bhullar.
After all, it was due to the Canadian-Indian’s absence that the collision with De Ridder even came to fruition.
With vacant repercussions well prepared should the reigning heavyweight king refrain from fighting duties, 2023 may finally see the gargantuan collision between the two golden sluggers.