Arjan Bhullar runs the rule over the ONE Championship heavyweight contenders
He recently ran the rule over all the contenders in the division and beyond and it is fair to say Bhullar sounds extremely confident of keeping his crown. With a 9-0 record Anatoly Malykhin is probably the number one contender but Bhullar sees some weaknesses in the Russian’s game,
“A good grappler, knows how to win, well-trained, and a big, strong dude. He’s all of those things. But the verdict is still out on him; is he well-rounded? He hasn’t had to face a high-level wrestler yet that can shut him down on the takedowns and impose takedowns on him. So, what’s he going to look like when he’s getting hit and has to be in a stand-up fight? What’s he going to look like when he’s getting taken down? Those are questions that still remain.”
The 35 year old does not think undefeated Korean Kang Ji Won would pose him too many problems either,
“Kang Ji Won’s a young kid, undefeated. Still, he has a great future ahead of him. He can move like a middleweight, fast feet, fast hands, and tough but he gets hit too much for my liking. He gets hit clean and hasn’t faced someone like me who can mix it up all the way together, who can hit him as well as take him down.”
Amir Aliakbari was expected to take the ONE Championship heavyweight division by storm. But the outspoken Iranian was stopped by Won in the opening round on his debut, suffering defeat for just the second time in his career.
Aliakbari’s reputation took a major hit that night, as did his chin. Bhullar has respect for the Iranian’s skills but doesn’t like him,
“You have to respect his athleticism. Big, strong, knows how to win, comes from the wrestling world, a lot of winning on the MMA side. But as an individual, I don’t respect him. I don’t like how much he talks. You know, we come from the world of wrestling, where we get to work and let the work do the talking. I understand the promotion on this side of things, but I think he’s gotten away from the hard work and what he was.”
Bhullar sees some holes in Aliakbari’s game too and sounds very confident he would be able to expose them,
“There are holes in his game as well. If he can impose his wrestling, great. If he can keep you down, great. But if you can make him work, people like Heath Herring have given him trouble. Kang Ji Won starched him, showed the holes in his stand-up, which we see as well. And he hasn’t faced a high-level wrestler either, so there are definitely question marks there as well. ”
Reinier de Ridder also got a mention. The Dutchman holds the middleweight and light heavyweight titles and has talked about moving up to heavyweight.
He is four inches taller than Bhullar so it is not beyond the realm of possibility. But the heavyweight champion thinks his takedown defence is superior to de Ridder’s previous opponents,
“Good grappler but he hasn’t faced anyone like me. He’s beaten Aung La Nsang and that’s about it. Aung La has done great things in this sport, but he couldn’t stop a takedown if his life depended on it. But at the end of the day (de Ridder) did win and he has two belts. Let’s see him defend. I will do the same, and if he’s still around, we’ll get it on.”