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ONE166: Qatar – Anatoly Malykhin makes history on incredible night in Middle East

Sport360 staff

21:20 01/03/2024

Anatoly Malykhin became the first fighter to hold consecutive titles at three different weight categories as he defeated Reinier de Ridder at ONE 166: Qatar.

The Russian became the reigning ONE Championship MMA champion at heavyweight, light-heavyweight, and now middleweight after beating the Dutch BBJ expert de Ridder – the man he defeated for the light-heavyweight crown.

Malykhin always looked the more dangerous at the Lusail Sports Arena, constantly looking for the power right hand – but did need to overcome some first-round adversity when de Ridder dropped him with a sharp right hand.

Working the body was proving a strong tactic for the Russian as he applied constant pressure throughout the contest, punishing de Ridder with the right hand and forcing him to retreat back onto the fence.

The Dutchman looked tired at the end of the second round having absorbed some heavy artillery, and when a takedown was stifled by Malykhin midway through the third, the Russian was able to scramble up to his feet, but de Ridder remained down, exhausted and unable to continue.

That handed Malykhin a piece of history – 26 pounds more of gold, and a $50,000 bonus to boot. 

Tang Kai looked excellent on his return to the cage

In the co-main event, Tang Kai returned to the cage for the first time in almost 18 months to retain the ONE featherweight MMA title.

Standing across from him in Qatar, was Thanh Le – the man he beat for the title in August 2022, and interim champion heading into the bout. 

However, a fourth round knockout saw Tang Kai unify the division, and pick up a $50,000 fight bonus.

The first round has started cagily with both men finding their range, but picking up yellow cards for inactivity in the process. Kai pushed the pace in the second marking Thanh Le and bloodying his nose with a series of accurate strikes. Le returned the favour later in the round however, as he found his range and bust open the nose of his Chinese opponent.

After the action of the second, the third stanza was a little more edgy, but Cai brought the heat in the fourth and dropped his opponent with a big right hand before ending things with a flurry of punches on the ground. 

In the night’s other title fight, there was drama and controversy as America’s Jarred Brooks was disqualified in his defence of the ONE strawweight MMA title. 

Brooks had started in dominant fashion against Joshua Pacio from the Philippines, but a vicious slam one minute into the first round saw Pacio land directly on his head – something strictly outlawed in ONE Championship. 

Fight fans had long-awaited this rematch but the early ending resulted in something of an anticlimax. Pacio became the new champion as a result of the DQ – regaining the title he lost to Brooks in December 2002.

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