In the aftermath of Anatoly Malykhin’s win over Arjan Bhullar last week he was asked which heavyweight he would like to fight next. The Russian did not name any of the current contenders on the ONE Championship roster.

His dream opponent would be former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou and Malykhin is very confident he would be able to win that fight,

“I would like to meet Francis Ngannou to see what he’s capable of, if he’s as strong as everyone thinks he is. I don’t think he would pass my test.”

Long and acrimonious

The buildup to his fight with Bhullar at ONE Friday Fights 22 was long and acrimonious. Malykhin had plenty to say about his opponent during negotiations that were so protracted they could almost be measured in years.

But having finally shared a ring with the Canadian it sounds like Malykhin feels Bhullar has earned his respect,

“I must give him some credit. He turned out to be a tough fighter and a tough guy. I just couldn’t beat him in the first round.”

However it doesn’t sound like the two men are ever going to be friends. Malykhin admitted he was happy that the fight went longer than he predicted because it allowed him to put a more extended beating on Bhullar,

“I knew I was going to win, and I set out to give my best in every round, to put on a spectacular fight. I’m glad he made it to the middle of the third round (because) I could continue beating him for longer. I’m glad he didn’t go down immediately.”

Successful strategy

Malykhin targeted Bhullar’s midsection throughout the fight and the strategy would ultimately pay dividends. It sounds like his team had already identified this as a potential weakness,

“I knew he had good defense. His torso, I think, is his weak point. He always protects his head well so I worked more on his body, I waited for
the body shots to do their job and then, when he was exhausted, I just hammered him.”

Malykhin has been calling Bhullar a chicken since 2021. He might have shared a ring with the Canadian for the best part of 15 minutes and been broadly complimentary afterwards but it sounds like he still bitter about having to wait nearly two years to fight him.

If Bhullar hoped he had heard Malykhin call him a chicken for the last time then he was wrong. The Russian returned to this theme when summing up what happened at Lumpinee Stadium last week,

“I cooked the chicken in the oven, roasted it!”