The Road To Arjan Bhullar Vs. Anatoly Malykhin Heavyweight World Title Unification Clash At ONE Fight Night 8
On Friday, March 24, one man will leave the Singapore Indoor Stadium as the undisputed ONE Heavyweight World Champion.
In the main event of ONE Fight Night 8 on Prime Video, reigning divisional king Arjan “Singh” Bhullar will battle interim titleholder Anatoly “Sladkiy” Malykhin in a World Title unification bout that’s been a long time in the making.
The heavyweight bruisers were initially slated to unify the belt in September 2022 at ONE 161, but Bhullar suffered an injury, forcing a postponement.
Now, after months of eyeing each other and trading barbs, the two MMA stars are finally set to lock horns live in U.S. primetime.
Just weeks before this massive showdown, let’s recap the victories that propelled both Malykhin and Bullar to their collision at ONE Fight Night 8.
Bhullar Rockets To The Top
“Singh” arrived in ONE Championship with plenty of fanfare.
After compiling an impressive 9-1 MMA record against elite competition, the Commonwealth Games Wrestling Gold Medalist made his promotional debut at ONE: CENTURY PART II in October 2019.
He quickly backed up the hype, leaning more on his ever-evolving striking than his world-class wrestling to secure a dominant decision victory over Italian knockout artist Mauro Cerilli.
Bhullar displayed deceptively fast hands and punishing dirty boxing throughout the bout, battering his foe on the feet while sending a scary message to the rest of the heavyweight division – he is much more than a wrestler.
Then in May 2021 at ONE: DANGAL, the Indian star challenged longtime ONE Heavyweight World Champion Brandon Vera for the belt. Riding a wave of confidence and in the best shape of his life, “Singh” mixed his takedowns and striking beautifully on his way to a second-round TKO.
Bhullar’s boxing was on point from the opening bell, as he pieced up the Filipino-American legend with precise punching combinations before bringing the fight to the canvas midway through the second stanza.
From there, he poured on heavy ground strikes, drowning Vera with a flurry of offense to secure the heavyweight crown in spectacular fashion.
After his World Title victory, the 36-year-old would take an extended break from competition before his return to action later this month.
Malykhin Earns Champ-Champ Status
Just months before Bhullar captured 26 pounds of gold, Malykhin made his promotional debut in March 2021 at ONE: FISTS OF FURY II.
That night, the undefeated Russian made quick work of Alexandre Machado, knocking him out in the first round and starting the four-fight winning streak that would launch him to two-division glory.
Six months later at ONE: REVOLUTION, “Sladkiy” faced gigantic Iranian Amir Aliakbari.
As if there were any doubts, Malykhin once again proved to have dynamite in his hands, dropping his opponent early with a thunderous right before finishing the job with a jaw-breaking left hook.
In two fights and less than two rounds of work, the Golden Team representative had established himself as the heavyweight division’s most feared contender.
Then in February 2022 at ONE: BAD BLOOD – while Bhullar remained away from the Circle – Malykhin was given the biggest opportunity of his career when he battled Kirill Grishenko for the ONE Interim Heavyweight World Title.
For the third time in as many bouts, “Sladkiy” showed why he might be the hardest puncher in ONE Championship.
In the first frame, Malykhin put in solid work with his ground-and-pound from the top position. The fireworks, though, came in the second stanza when he connected with a massive leaping right hook that put Grishenko down and out.
That knockout marked the pinnacle of Malykhin’s career, and with the interim belt around his waist, it set up a future unification fight with Bhullar.
While “Singh” was sidelined due to injury, Malykhin chose not to rest on his laurels and instead pursued gold in another division, challenging Reinier de Ridder for the ONE Light Heavyweight World Title last December at ONE on Prime Video 5.
Yet again, the 35-year-old showed off his show-stopping power en route to a first-round finish and one of 2022’s best knockouts, handing “The Dutch Knight” his first career defeat.
Now a two-division World Champion and inarguably one of MMA’s most devastating strikers, Malykhin is more than ready for his long-awaited unification bout against Bhullar.