Reinier De Ridder Eyes ‘Redemption’ In Massive World Title Rematch With Anatoly Malykhin

Reinier de Ridder stands in the Circle at ONE on Prime Video 5

Reinier “The Dutch Knight” de Ridder is anxious to prove he’s better than his last fight.

He’ll have a chance to do so on March 1 when he defends the ONE Middleweight MMA World Title against the only man to defeat him – current ONE Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight MMA World Champion Anatoly “Sladkiy” Malykhin.

That blockbuster rematch is set to go down at the picturesque Lusail Sports Arena in the main event of ONE 166: Qatar.

When the two fighters first clashed in December 2022, De Ridder was an undefeated two-division ONE World Champion, loaded with confidence and ready to defend his light heavyweight crown against the unbeaten Russian.

But that all changed in less than one round, as the hard-hitting Malykhin scored a brutal knockout to claim one of “The Dutch Knight’s” two World Titles.

Now in the final preparations for this highly anticipated rematch, De Ridder told that he didn’t perform at his full potential in the first matchup:

“I made a mistake. I wasn’t myself. I dropped the ball, and I’m looking to make good on this one.”

The judo and BJJ black belt admits that – given his incredible run of dominance in MMA to that point – he had become dangerously complacent in his training.

He came into the battle with Malykhin having submitted two opponents in a row and three of his last four, all in ONE World Title bouts. 

That success, he says, led to a fighter’s worst enemy – overconfidence:

“In the preparation for the fight and maybe even the fights before, I kind of lost track of what makes me great. I got away from putting in the time as much, developing every little small area of my game.

“You win 16 in a row, and to be honest, not to sound arrogant because I’m not trying to be arrogant, it always went pretty easily in the fights.

“It was always like that. There’s a guy in front of me, I walk towards him, I take him down, I choke him out, basically. In my head, it kind of got stuck that this is how fights go, and I could do this to anybody in the world – until I couldn’t.”

De Ridder recalls his thoughts before that fateful encounter with “Sladkiy.” While he was aware of his foe’s immense punching power, he expected another routine night of work:

“He has a very strong right hand. He’s very dangerous with it. But, to be honest, I was like, ‘I’ve seen this before, and I’m just going to take him down easily and choke him out.’

“That’s not who I am normally, and it’s not the person I want to be.”

The Dutchman is excited for another crack at Malykhin, this time with his ONE Middleweight MMA World Title up for grabs. 

For De Ridder, there’s no personal animosity against the man who handed him his first and only loss. Instead, it’s all about vindicating himself and his skills at the highest level:

“I’m very happy that it’s Malykhin again. Very happy that it’s a chance to redeem myself, which is the most important thing. It’s about me getting back on this last fight. It’s about me redeeming myself. It’s about redemption.”

De Ridder Details His Technical And Mental Improvements

Now more than a year since his last MMA bout, Reinier de Ridder has made some important adjustments ahead of his World Title rematch with Anatoly Malykhin at ONE 166.

He’s put in extra work in the weight room, packing on size and muscle to prepare for the Russian’s raw physicality.

The 33-year-old has also placed a renewed focus on his striking, putting himself through the wringer at the famed Hemmers Gym in the Netherlands – home to some of the planet’s most feared kickboxers.

He explained:

“The thing that’s most important to me, what’s really close to my heart, is the technical aspect, which I’ve been working on very hard.

“I’ve been doing a lot of my striking work at Hemmers. I’ve done this in the past, but not as consistently and not as much focused on it as I have right now. It’s always very tough to go there.”

Beyond developing his stand-up skills, De Ridder has looked deep into his mindset. 

Not wanting to repeat the same mistakes of his last fight, he knows a strong – but not overconfident – mentality will be key:

“Another thing that’s really important to me is my mental game. I’ve really looked inward a lot over the last year. I’ve really tried to make some changes in the way I approach the fight, the way I view myself as a fighter.”

With those improvements under his belt, the middleweight MMA kingpin believes he can get back to his winning ways, defend his gold, and remind fans that he is perhaps the sport’s most skilled submission artist. 

De Ridder added:

“I know where my strengths lie in this one. I know where I can do what I do best. It’s just a matter of time before I get those openings. As long as I stay safe, I’m going to find his neck eventually.”

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