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ONE Championship: Two-Division King Anatoly Malykhin Named ONE’s MMA Athlete Of The Year 

Published 01/01/2023, 1:57 PM EST

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2022 couldn’t have unfolded any better for Russian superstar Anatoly “Sladkiy” Malykhin. 

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The Golden Team standout closed out his year in possession of both the ONE Interim Heavyweight World Title and the light heavyweight belt, along with four US$50,000 performance bonuses and two sensational finishes.

All that combined has helped “Sladkiy” scoop ONE’s 2022 MMA Athlete Of The Year award.


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After scoring a pair of first-round knockouts against Alexandre Machado and Amir Aliakbari in 2021 – his debut year in ONE – Malykhin was a favorite to challenge Arjan “Singh” Bhullar for his ONE Heavyweight World Title in the new year.

Unfortunately, that didn’t come to fruition. Instead, “Sladkiy” was presented with an opportunity to battle Kirill Grishenko for the interim divisional strap at ONE: BAD BLOOD this past February. 

Needless to say, he made the most of his opportunity.

Malykhin utilized his wrestling skills to fend off the Belarusian’s attacks in the opening round. When he brought his rival on the canvas, he went to town with his striking, unloading punches, hammer fists, and elbows until the end of the first round.

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The second frame got off to a similar start, with Malykhin controlling the Belarusian with heavy artillery. But eventually, Grishenko fell victim to the 34-year-old’s concussive power at the 3:42 mark of the second round, handing the Russian the interim gold and a double US$50,000 bonus.

Anatoly Malykhin couldn’t get to Bhullar but it all ended well

Following the triumph, “Sladkiy” was scheduled to lock horns with Bhullar in a unification match, but the latter suffered an injury that forced him out of the scheduled five-round thriller.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Malykhin decided to venture on a new mission – claiming the ONE Light Heavyweight World Title from Reinier “The Dutch Knight” de Ridder.


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That match served as the main event of ONE on Prime Video 5 on Friday, December 2.

Once again, the heavyweight star made quick work of his rival.


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Malykhin shrugged off most of De Ridder’s takedown attempts to ensure the fight stayed where he wanted it. From there, he battered the previously unbeaten superstar with huge punches every time they traded strikes.

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A final salvo of hooks and hammer fists dropped the Dutchman at the 4:35 mark of the opening round, bringing the bout to an end and earning Malykhin the ONE Light Heavyweight World Title, along with another US$100,000 performance bonus from ONE Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong.

It was an epic year for the Russian colossus, and the ONE 2022 MMA Athlete Of The Year award is a fitting recognition for a man who was nothing short of electric over the past 12 months.

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Written by:

Deepak Kumar


One take at a time

Deepak Kumar is a UFC author at EssentiallySports. His love for MMA comes from the chaos and violence the fight business brings to the table. A BJJ aspirant, Deepak began following the sport as a casual fan when Ronda Rousey was finishing her opponents in seconds.
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