Despite a knockout loss to “Mighty Warrior” Kang Ji Won in his ONE debut earlier this year, Aliakbari still claims that his peers in the heavyweight MMA division are not on his level – and the undefeated Russian is out to shatter that confidence this Friday, 24, September.
“Not everyone thinks in the same way [as Aliakbari]. Our Korean brother [Kang] a hundred percent didn’t think about it that way,” Malykhin says.
“And I know that Russian fans also don’t think about him in that way. So it’s better not to have a high opinion of yourself.”
Now, the 9-0 rising star can solidify his status as a top contender with another high-profile victory in this World Title eliminator match.
But while he does not rank Aliakbari as high as the brash Iranian rates himself, Malykhin does accept that his opponent will bring a formidable skill set to the Circle, and he’s prepared for their battle accordingly.
“He’s very strong and he has very good grappling and wrestling,” the Russian says.
“But he has a lot of weaknesses as well. He has been knocked out a couple of times. But we cannot underestimate him.
“I had an amazing camp with Tiger Muay Thai, with my coach John [Hutchinson], and I feel great physically and mentally. I enjoy this opportunity, this journey that I have, and I can’t wait to finish him.”
- Amir Aliakbari: ‘I’ll Get Past Anatoly, And I’m Looking At Arjan’
- 5 Videos That Prove Anatoly Malykhin Is ONE’s Funniest Heavyweight
- 5 Reasons To Watch ONE: REVOLUTION On 24 September
Both combatants come from wrestling backgrounds and have transitioned well into mixed martial arts. However, “Sladkiy” says his well-rounded arsenal will give him the edge on fight night.
With the tangible and intangible elements of his game, he expects to have more fortitude, resilience, and offensive options than his foe.
“I think I’m on another level. Firstly, I’ve never been knocked out, and this is a big factor,” Malykhin offers.
“Secondly, I think mentally I’m way stronger. And physically, I promise you guys, it’ll be very minimal wrestling. I’ll be way better at striking, so the fight will mostly focus on [stand-up]. The rest, you guys will have to see.”
Back-to-back wins over elite opponents in ONE would be huge for the surging Russian.
If he can showcase dangerous striking alongside the skillful grappling he displayed in his debut, the 33-year-old could push his way into the #1 contender spot in the heavyweight division.
Malykhin would love the chance to face off against newly crowned ONE Heavyweight World Champion Arjan “Singh” Bhullar, and he would enter that bout with the support of his nation.
“I’m fully ready and I’ll be more than happy to accept [a World Title fight],” he says.
“Russia is big, and Russia is waiting for its heavyweight champion. If ONE Championship organizes the fight for December, that would be the biggest and the greatest gift that I could have.”
But first, “Sladkiy” has to get past a heavy-handed Greco-Roman Wrestling World Champion, and he knows that a resounding victory would increase his chances of challenging for the strap in the near future.
With that in mind, Malykhin isn’t planning on wasting any time when he enters the Circle. And although he believes his striking will take precedence, he will keep it short and clinical if he gets the chance.
“I think I’ll be able to submit him in 16 seconds. Sleep time,” he adds.