Burgeoning heavyweight star Anatoly “Spartak” Malykhin is not just hoping to fulfill the lofty expectations that have been placed on him — he’s ready to smash them.
The undefeated Russian will put his perfect slate on the line against veteran bruiser Alexandre “Bebezao” Machado at the previously recorded ONE: FISTS OF FURY II in Singapore this Friday, 5 March, and he plans to deliver the goods in his promotional debut.
“I feel amazing. Physically, I am very prepared and I can’t wait to enter the cage to show the world what I can do,” Malykhin says.
“Honestly, I don’t know exactly why I have got this reputation. Everybody sees I am undefeated, that I beat people, but right now, I want to tell them to study me and let them know that I am coming out of the darkness.”
These days, there is a lot of excitement about ONE Championship’s swelling heavyweight division, which includes new signings Amir Aliakbari and “Mighty Warrior” Kang Ji Won — who headline Friday’s card — and established names like reigning king Brandon “The Truth” Vera.
Even among those world-class peers, Malykhin is considered one of the biggest threats to Vera’s crown. His 8-0 record is made up of eight straight finishes, and he shows improvements every time he competes.
In his opinion, that commitment to evolving as an athlete is what will carry him to the top.
“My base and my fundamentals are freestyle wrestling, but when I moved to Thailand and Tiger Muay Thai, I started to strengthen my striking,” he says.
“In this fight with Machado, I want to show both – my striking skills as well as my wrestling.”
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In Machado, the Kemerovo native will face an experienced foe who’s already challenged for a ONE World Title.
The Brazilian unsuccessfully challenged Aung La “The Burmese Python” N Sang for the then-vacant ONE Light Heavyweight World Championship belt in February 2018, but he’s looked revitalized since returning to heavyweight.
Malykhin certainly respects “Bebezao” – a BJJ black belt with a punishing ground game – but he’s not fazed by their matchup.
“He has a couple of strengths. One is his way of working. He likes to be the first to attack. He likes to get the confidence, so you have to make sure not to give that confidence to him,” the 33-year-old Russian says.
“Secondly, he has his jiu-jitsu, but in my opinion, jiu-jitsu is nothing against freestyle wrestling. Plus, my jiu-jitsu is not bad because I am a European Champion in grappling.”
Malykhin is not just confident about his chances of achieving victory on Friday night. Simply put, he can’t see a way that he will lose to the veteran from Rio De Janeiro.
“With due respect, I feel I am one head higher than him in the fight,” the Russian states.
“I am younger, faster, my striking is better, and my wrestling is better. I don’t see anything that he can overtake me on. I’m on a different level than him.
“I have seen him break down in the critical battles. He doesn’t have the champion’s spirit. I have been in these championship fights, and I have the champion’s spirit.
“He is not at the championship level — he is somewhere in the middle. But I am.”
With his stake firmly in the ground and his World Title intentions clear, Malykhin wants to kick-start his run toward the gold with an emphatic victory in his first outing in The Home Of Martial Arts.
It will make a huge statement if “Spartak” can run through a battle-hardened veteran like Machado, and if he does, there would be a massive opportunity to build even more momentum.
The Kemerovo native is already scheduled to face Aliakbari at ONE on TNT III on 21 April. If both of those men are coming off victories, Malykhin could book himself a shot at the ONE Heavyweight World Championship — all within weeks of his debut.
“I [already] have an agreement, but after fighting Alexandre, we will see what happens with the fight with Amir,” the Russian offers.
“If he wins, I really look forward to fighting him and showing two wrestlers in the cage. But if he doesn’t win, I will not be interested and I will be looking for another [opponent].
“Vera is a very experienced guy. [He is] very tough. He likes to fight as a counter-attacking guy, so he is very good at striking, but he has never faced a good wrestler like me.
“I look forward to having a chance to fight with him. I will submit him with grappling techniques.”
Malykhin certainly has big ambitions, but first, he must overcome a formidable Brazilian in “The Lion City.”
The Russian won’t give too much away, but he does expect to beat Machado before the final bell and continue his meteoric rise.
“Honestly, I don’t like guessing and saying my strategy, but the only thing I can tell you is I’m very excited to jump in the cage with ONE,” Malykhin states.
“I’ve been looking forward to it for a long time, and I look forward to finishing Alexandre in the second round.”