Two-division ONE world champion Reinier de Ridder (16-0) is ready for the biggest test of his undefeated 16-fight MMA career.
In the main event of ONE on Prime Video 5, "The Dutch Knight" will put his ONE light heavyweight world title on the line against unbeaten ONE interim heavyweight world champion Anatoly Malykhin (11-0).
Their showdown on December 2 could lead to a massive opportunity for de Ridder – a future shot at the heavyweight crown and his third ONE world title.
But first, the reigning middleweight and light heavyweight king must defend his own belt against Malykhin, who owns a flawless 11-0 record with a 100 percent finishing rate.
On paper, the Russian star seems to have the size and wrestling ability to slow down or even stop de Ridder's vaunted grappling game. However, the 32-year-old Dutchman disagrees and expects to continue his dominant run inside the ONE circle.
"(Malykhin is) stocky. Of course, he is a lot shorter than I am. He will be a bit bulkier than I am, a bit heavier. But to be honest, he doesn't bring anything special there in the wrestling department. We've seen in previous fights that he has a decent double, but I don't really see him stopping anything else."
As for their size difference, de Ridder expects to be the lighter man in this light heavyweight contest, but he doesn't think it will change the dynamics of the fight.
After all, the defending titleholder is 5 inches taller than Malykhin and holds the edge in grappling technique, which he believes will negate any strength advantage from the interim heavyweight king.
"The Dutch Knight" said:
"(The weight disparity will) be noticeable, but it will feel like I'm the bigger guy because I'm the taller, lankier guy. I'll be stronger in the clinch, so it doesn't really factor into it. But of course, every guy is more open to certain moves, and he'll be open to certain takedowns more than he is open to different ones, and I'll adjust accordingly."
Even if things don't go according to plan and de Ridder is unable to bring the fight to the canvas, he feels fully prepared for Malykhin's ever-improving striking.
He acknowledges that his opponent carries immense power in his fists, but he isn't fazed by the prospect of dealing with it.
The Dutchman said:
"Well, as I said, he is dangerous, so I really need to watch everything and be very sharp, but he's not special. He has a hard right hand. He needs a little bit of space to leap in with a large, loopy right hand, which he catches people with pretty often."
De Ridder predicts 'explosive' start, submission finish
A thoughtful and analytical athlete, de Ridder envisions his world title clash against "Sladkiy" to play out in a specific manner.
Well aware of the fight-ending power that's propelled Malykhin to three straight knockouts inside the ONE circle, "The Dutch Knight" expects an action-packed opening to their bout.
"The first two minutes are very important in this fight because he's going to come out strong, he's going to try and press forward, and I'm going to come out strong, I'm going to be in the middle of the ONE circle. You'll see me dominant from the first second, so in those first few seconds, those are going to be very explosive and very, very, very important."
Hoping to use his reach advantage, de Ridder aims to keep his opponent at bay and his aggression in check.
From there, he intends to repeat the same game plan that earned him two world titles and the reputation as MMA's most dangerous grappler – clinch, takedown, and submission.
Filled with calm, self-assured confidence, de Ridder logged his official prediction for the ONE light heavyweight world title contest on December 2:
"I think I can hit him with some good stuff because I'm more rangy," de Ridder said. "I think I can get in his face and hit him with some good jabs and with some good kicks. Clinch him, take him down. I see me controlling him on the floor, hitting him with some elbows, hitting him with some knees, and I see myself choking him out at the end of the first."
This story first published at ONEFC.com.