5 Big Takeaways From ONE 166: Qatar

Tang Kai Thanh Le ONE 166 43

ONE Championship debuted in Qatar on March 1 with 10 exciting matchups at ONE 166.

It was a wild card that featured action across four different sports, two disqualifications, and a history-making main event.

With a slate of memorable battles leading up to the three World Championship rematches at the end of the lineup, there was much to digest.

Here are five takeaways to ponder in the wake of ONE 166: Qatar last Friday.

Malykhin Is The Baddest MMA Athlete On The Planet

Since arriving in ONE Championship, Anatoly Malykhin has backed up all of his words. This time, “Sladkiy” entered the Lusail Sports Arena intent on making history – and that is precisely what he did.

Although defending ONE Middleweight MMA World Champion Reinier de Ridder scored with push kicks and tried to get the fight to the canvas, Malykhin would not budge.

With increasing pressure and power, the ONE Heavyweight and Light Heavyweight MMA World Champion battered De Ridder until he could no longer stand, adding the middleweight MMA belt and becoming the first three-division World Champion in ONE.

However, accomplishing the unprecedented feat is almost secondary to how Malykhin has made it happen. The undefeated Russian is now 6-0 in ONE, and with every victory coming via knockout, he’s made a case to be considered the baddest man on the planet.

“Sladkiy” has been worthy of that moniker by dispatching elite competition left and right through three divisions with absolutely no signs of slowing down. Beyond making history, he’s creating a lasting legacy as an all-time great and a terrifying force.

We Need Brooks Vs. Pacio III

Jarred Brooks and Joshua Pacio always seemed destined for multiple matches inside the Circle. After ONE 166, a third bout is a necessity, even though it won’t come the way anyone had hoped.

As Pacio threatened with a kimura, Brooks lifted and slammed the Filipino to the mat. The problem came with the landing, as no spikes or throws to the head, neck, or spine are allowed under the Global Mixed Martial Arts Rule Set.

As a result, Pacio reclaimed the ONE Strawweight MMA World Championship from the American via disqualification. Now, it’s clear that a proper resolution needs to happen as soon as possible.

A trilogy showdown will likely materialize once Pacio is cleared to return, and these men will continue their heated but respectful rivalry with the biggest prize in the sport on the line.

No Rust For Tang Kai In Methodical Return

Despite 18 months away from active competition, Tang Kai did not miss a beat against Thanh Le in their ONE Featherweight MMA World Title unification match. The Chinese superstar was back to peak form with a third-round TKO victory.

Tang initially rose through the division with a string of highlight-reel knockouts before dethroning Le in their first meeting via decision with a stellar game plan. The rematch in Qatar was added proof that he’s much more than a KO artist – he’s a tactician with an extremely high fight IQ.

Le tried to bring new wrinkles into the rematch by offering Tang different stances and angles. However, the 28-year-old adapted and was the one to surprise his rival with a beautiful feint to the left, leading to a clean right hook that dropped the Vietnamese-American to the canvas.

Tang’s skills and understanding of the sport’s intricacies grow with each passing camp. The featherweight MMA division is surely worried that he has become an even more dangerous king to dethrone.

Aliakbari May Be The Middle East’s Best Hope For ONE Gold

Since losing to Malykhin in 2021, Amir Aliakbari has been on a mission to reach the top of the heavyweight MMA division. In Qatar, he took a big step toward a rematch with the reigning ONE Heavyweight MMA World Champion – and a chance to bring the gold to the Middle East.

The hulking Iranian looked for power shots throughout his match against Arjan Bhullar. The former divisional king saw the heat Aliakbari was bringing and continually backed away from the fire until referee Herb Dean disqualified him for inactivity.

Meanwhile, Aliakbari competed intelligently by never getting reckless in chasing a knockout or becoming frustrated with his opponent refusing to engage.

As the 36-year-old progresses physically and mentally in his approach, he could be the biggest threat to Malykhin and the coveted 26 pounds of gold.

Kuzmin, Saldoev Score Big Victories For Archangel Michael

Athletes are always looking for the chance to stand out on a card filled with the world’s biggest stars. At ONE 166, two rising Muay Thai sensations from Russia sent a message that their gym is ready to join the world’s elite.

Ali Saldoev was first up against Zakaria El Jamari in a 137.75-pound catchweight contest. His ONE debut could not have gone better with an electric second-round KO.

Two bouts later, Vladimir Kuzmin scored a knockdown in the second frame of his 147.75-pound catchweight bout against Zafer Sayik and won via unanimous decision.

Kuzmin and Saldoev both represent Archangel Michael Fight Club. Their victories made a splash and showed why the gym is becoming a landing spot for the next generation of elite Russian strikers.

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