Undefeated two-division champion Reinier de Ridder has put a stranglehold on ONE Championship’s middleweight and light heavyweight classes, having dominated nearly every person who has stood across from him.
But now, the 32-year-old is gearing up for his biggest test to date – quite literally.
This Friday, December 2, “The Dutch Knight” will defend his ONE light heavyweight title against the promotion’s unbeaten interim heavyweight king, Anatoly Malykhin, in the main event of ONE on Prime Video 5.
De Ridder may not match the Russian in power, but he enters this contest with a glaring five-inch height advantage, non-stop cardio, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu and judo black belt expertise which combined have proven to be lethal for all 16 of his previous opponents.
The beginning of de Ridder’s ONE run
Ever since he arrived on the global stage at ONE: Hero’s Ascent in January 2019, De Ridder’s talents were on show with immediate effect.
Taking on Fan Rong in his promotional debut, “The Dutch Knight” made certain of a short night’s work against China’s top light heavyweight MMA fighter, as he implemented a tight D’Arce choke to force the submission in a mere 75 seconds. With it, he snapped Fan’s spectacular 17-bout winning streak.
De Ridder returned to the Circle six months later, where again he picked up another stoppage victory. This one was equally impressive, as he outgrappled BJJ black belt Gilberto Galvao, locked him in a D’Arce-like position, and fired knees into his head until the Brazilian tapped out to the strikes.
In February 2020, however, fans saw a truly different side of “The Dutch Knight.”
He had previously used his grappling to overwhelm his foes, but against fellow BJJ black belt Leandro Ataides, he relied on his boxing, long reach, and clinch knees to take a unanimous decision.
Striking double gold
Thirteen months into his ONE Championship career, De Ridder found himself riding a three-fight winning streak inside his new promotional home while remaining unblemished at 11-0 overall.
The impressive collection of scalps on his resume, as well as the way he achieved those victories, meant only one thing was next: world title opportunities.
At ONE: Inside The Matrix in October 2020, De Ridder stepped up against undoubtedly the toughest adversary of his career – Myanmar hero and two-division ONE world champion Aung La N Sang.
“The Burmese Python” was 11-1 inside the Circle at that point and with gold glistening over both shoulders in the form of the middleweight and light heavyweight belts.
But, much like every other test put in front of him, De Ridder aced it. He stunned N Sang, forcing the longtime titleholder to submit to a rear-naked choke in the first round as the Dutchman took the middleweight crown with relative ease.
The Dutchman enjoyed his first taste of ONE world title gold, but he wanted another bite and had the Myanmar superstar’s light heavyweight title in his sights.
This opportunity allowed N Sang the chance to exact revenge against the grappling powerhouse at “ONE on TNT IV” in April 2021, but De Ridder’s form was yet again undeniable.
Although the man from Breda, Netherlands, didn’t get the submission, his takedowns and constant submission threats overwhelmed “The Burmese Python,” as he took both the unanimous decision and the light heavyweight belt home.
The formidable presence of De Ridder marked a changing of the guard in ONE Championship. A new emperor had emerged in the middleweight and light heavyweight divisions. Instead of being the hunter, he found himself being hunted.
Maintaining his golden grip
Ten months after achieving champ-champ status, De Ridder entered his first middleweight title defense in a super-fight with ONE welterweight champion Kiamrian Abbasov.
Despite the welterweight king’s phenomenal form and well-rounded arsenal, he was no match for “The Dutch Knight.”
Abbasov would quickly succumb to the size and skill differential of De Ridder, who decimated the Kyrgyz athlete and forced him to submit via arm-triangle choke in the third round.
The target on the Dutchman’s back continued to loom large with his follow-up test against former ONE middleweight champion Vitaly Bigdash, who always felt like he never truly “lost” his belt to Aung La N Sang.
This was supposed to be De Ridder’s sternest challenge to date, but it turned out to be his shining moment.
Bigdash locked up a nearly airtight guillotine choke early, and for a moment it looked as if “The Dutch Knight” would be conquered. But the champ-champ battled through the adversity, took control of his rival, and put him to sleep with an inverted triangle choke inside the opening stanza.
On Friday, De Ridder’s road leads him to ONE on Prime video 5 against Malykhin, another man who calls himself a world champion. The stakes have risen, but the 16-0 submission machine has proved that he only gets better when the challenges get tougher.