Anatoly Malykhin Wins ONE’s 2022 MMA Athlete Of The Year Award

Anatoly Malykhin is declared winner against Reinier de Ridder at ONE on Prime Video 5

It’s been a near-flawless year for Anatoly “Sladkiy” Malykhin, ONE Championship’s newest two-division World Champion.

The Russian powerhouse started 2022 as an undefeated contender who was patiently waiting for his chance to challenge for the heavyweight crown, and he finished the year with a golden 26-pound belt over each one of his massive shoulders.

Malykhin’s incredible rise to the top of both the heavyweight and light heavyweight divisions has been nothing short of impressive, and that, combined with his unforgettable highlight-reel knockouts, has cemented him as ONE’s 2022 MMA Athlete of the Year.

After knocking out Iranian superstar Amir Aliakbari in September 2021, ONE Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong awarded Malykhin with a future World Title opportunity.

The 34-year-old received that opportunity in his first appearance of 2022. Due to contract negotiations stalling with divisional kingpin Arjan Bhullar, the Russian met unbeaten Belarusian contender Kirill Grishenko for the ONE Interim Heavyweight World Championship at ONE: BAD BLOOD in February.

Malykhin put his wrestling skills on display in the first round, taking Grishenko to the canvas midway through the frame and strategically unloading hammerfists and short elbows for the rest of the stanza.

But “Sladkiy” is not paid by the hour, so he entered round two in no mood to see a third. The Russian wrecking machine came out throwing bombs, but Grishenko hung tough and landed some shots of his own.

Eventually, the pressure was too much for the Belarusian to handle. Malykhin knocked out his foe with a huge looping overhand right at the 3:42 mark of the second frame to claim the interim gold. He would also earn a pair of US$50,000 performance bonuses.

Malykhin was originally scheduled to lock horns with Bhullar in a unification match later in the year, but the Indian suffered an injury, which put him on the sidelines for even longer.

Wanting to stay active and embark on a new challenge, the hulking Russian moved down a weight class to face undefeated two-division ONE World Champion Reinier de Ridder for his light heavyweight strap in the main event at ONE on Prime Video 5 earlier this December.

After making weight with relative ease, Malykhin entered the Circle and demolished “The Dutch Knight” in the first round.

De Ridder’s submission game had terrorized the organization’s roster during his three-year promotional tenure so far, but “Sladkiy” effortlessly shrugged off his rival’s takedown attempts and battered him with devastating punches.

Malykhin was clinical in his attack, ultimately dropping the Dutchman with a thunderous right hook and following up with hammerfists to force the stoppage at the 4:35 mark of the opening frame.

That stellar victory pushed Malykhin’s record to 12-0, kept his 100 percent finishing rate intact, and earned him a US$100,000 performance bonus from Sityodtong.

Also, with this landmark win, the Russian joined an exclusive group of fighters who have simultaneously reigned over two weight classes, and now, he will enter 2023 as one of the organization’s brightest stars.

ONE’s 2022 MMA Athlete Of The Year Honorable Mentions

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