SUNDAY, April 21, 2024

Four keys to victory for ONE 166 main event 

Four keys to victory for ONE 166 main event 

This Friday will be a historic night for ONE Championship when it makes its on-ground debut in Qatar and its long-awaited return to the Middle East.  

In the ONE 166 headliner, however, two-weight MMA king Anatoly Malykhin is hunting his own piece of history when he faces ONE middleweight MMA world champion Reinier de Ridder for a second time.  

If the heavyweight and light heavyweight MMA divisional ruler is successful, he’ll become the first MMA athlete in history to hold world titles in three weight classes. 

It promises to be another fascinating clash of styles at Lusail Sports Arena in Lusail, Qatar, on March 1, when the Russian wrecking machine rematches one of the most dangerous submission aces on the planet. 

Here is how the fight could be decided. 

Malykhin at middleweight 

Before he faces De Ridder once again, Malykhin’s first battle will be against the scales. 

The hulking knockout artist has fought his entire career, save for his first fight with De Ridder, at heavyweight, amassing 13 wins with 10 first-round finishes. 

The major question mark over this fight is whether he can make the middleweight limit. Not only that, but does his famous punching power come down to 205 pounds with him after he weighed 240 pounds in his most recent fight? 

If it does, then Malykhin’s power and strength could be the deciding factor once again, given that he dispatched De Ridder in the first round in their initial meeting in 2022. 

De Ridder’s deep bag of submission tricks 

De Ridder is one of the best grapplers in MMA today. 

The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and judo black belt has finished 11 of his 16 professional wins via submission. But it’s his variety of different techniques that helps him stand out. 

Among his victories, De Ridder has tapped out his foes with armbars, rear-naked chokes, and triangle chokes. A particular highlight was his stunning inverted triangle finish of then-welterweight MMA king Kiamrian Abbasov in 2022. 

We didn’t get to see De Ridder and Malykhin tussle on the ground during their first fight at ONE Fight Night 5, but it’s safe to say that submission prowess is “The Dutch Knight’s” best chance of stealing the show this time around. 

Malykhin’s defensive wrestling 

Like many of Russia’s top fighting exports, Malykhin has a deep history in the art of wrestling. 

Sladkiy” was able to use his skills to effortlessly shrug off the takedowns of De Ridder in their first encounter, and he’ll need to do the same again at ONE 166 to keep the fight standing and land his powerful strikes. 

Once again, the question is whether the smaller version of Malykhin will impose his strength as he did at light heavyweight. 

De Ridder’s takedowns 

On the flip side, De Ridder will have to use his own wrestling skills to get the fight to the canvas. 

The 33-year-old was unable to pull it off last time, albeit only within the four-and-a-half minutes that the fight lasted. 

He has likely moved to address that in recent months. The Dutchman spent his most recent training camp focused on grappling only ahead of his competitive showing under submission grappling rules this past May, when he took on ONE welterweight submission grappling world champion Tye Ruotolo in a close decision defeat. 

With a renewed focus on his wrestling in addition to BJJ, De Ridder’s ability to take Malykhin down could tilt the pendulum in his favour on March 1.