Anatoly Malykhin Overwhelms Arjan Bhullar to Unify Heavyweight Title at ONE Friday Fights 22

Anatoly Malykhin ONE Championship
Anatoly Malykhin Credit: ONE Championship

It had been over two years since Indo-Canadian heavyweight champ Arjan Bhullar had stepped into the ONE Championship cage prior to Friday — when his long-awaited title unification bout with Anatoly Malykhin finally arrived.

Two years off is a virtual eternity in fight years, and Bhullar ran the risk of ring rust and the busier schedule of Malykhin getting the better of him.

Perhaps with that in mind, the Russian heavyweight, holding interim gold in the weight class as well as ONE’s light heavyweight title, came out hot to start the five-round affair, coming midway through the ONE Friday Fights 22 card in Bangkok, Thailand. Malykhin started out firing an overhand right and trying to corner Bhullar. When the pair came together in a clinch, Bhullar landed a knee, but Malykhin was out of danger before a takedown could even be attempted.

Moments later, Malykhin again backed Bhullar into a corner, firing a combination that saw at least some strikes land. The right hand in particular was a guided missile for Malykhin, though Bhullar wore it well. The champion caught a kick, but couldn’t dump Malykhin, who kept the pressure on Bhullar throughout the round.

Later in the frame, Malykhin would find success with an outside leg kick and body shot; Bhullar frustratingly struggled to get any offense whatsoever going, even when Malykhin planted his feet and waved him in.

Malykhin again came out hot in round two, firing his overhand right, ripping the body, and backing the champ up. Bhullar’s chin continued to hold up, but again in the second, he struggled to implement his wrestling. Malykhin quickly escaped each and every clinch situation, working at distance and putting Bhullar’s back against the ropes. The body shots in particular were starting to add up, with Bhullar in obvious discomfort as they landed.

In the final minute of round two, Bhullar finally answered back, targeting the body himself. Striking not being his bread and butter — far from it — it was a faint sign of life, not a turning point.

Far from it, in fact. Early in the third, Malykhin punctuated a combination with a high kick, then trapped Bhullar in the corner, unloading. Lefts, rights, and uppercuts landed, as Bhullar struggled to block punches and answer back. Bhullar clinched up, but when they went down, it was Malykhin in control. Bhullar then slipped through the ropes, leading to ref to restart him off his back. An exhausted Bhullar struggled to his knees, only to slip through the ropes again. That earned a yellow card from the ref, who then started Bhullar on the ground once again. From there, Malykhin took control, raining down punches as an out-gunned Bhullar could do nothing but cover up.

The TKO finish was almost merciful, and Anatoly Malykhin was undisputed heavyweight champion.

Malykhin suggested he might pursue a third title following the fight — and was awarded a $50,000 post-fight bonus.

Official Result: Anatoly Malykhin (ic) def. Arjan Bhullar (c) by TKO (punches), Round 3, 2:42  — for the ONE heavyweight championship / title unification bout