Here Come the Big Boys – ONE Signings

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ONE signings Muaina Manase, daniyal Zainalov, Shamil Abdulaev, and Anatoly Malykhin.
(Left to Right) Muaina Manase, daniyal Zainalov, Shamil Abdulaev, and Anatoly Malykhin.

ONE Championship recently dropped a bomb of an announcement saying they signed a total of fourteen athletes to their roster.

The promotion’s recruitment team definitely made the most out of the global lockdown. Judging by who the recruits are, one area that they put the most effort into is the heavier weight classes.

A much-appreciated change considering that one of the biggest criticisms of the promotion is the lack of competition at Middleweight, Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight.

So we’ll be looking at these new faces, their resumes and what we can expect from these ONE signings in the future.

Muaina Manase

ONE signings Muaina Manase
Muaina Manase via Fight News.

This Middleweight from New Zealand is definitely the biggest unknown quality of all the ONE signings with a strange reverse-journey in his fighting career.

He made his professional debut in 2017, he fought twice that year, notching a 1-1 record and then disappeared. The next time Manase stepped back in the cage was in 2019 – as an amateur.

He took part in the Global Association of Mixed Martial Arts (GAMMA) amateur tournament that was held in Singapore last year. Quickly going 4-0 in the tournament, he became the Middleweight Champion and was awarded Best Male Athlete.

However, because of ONE’s unique weight system, Manase will most likely be competing in the Welterweight division. He’ll compete with the likes of Tyler McGuire, Zebaztian Kadestam, Agilan Thani, and Luis Santos.

Because of his relatively thin experience in the pro ranks, it’s hard to say anything definitive about Manase. But that two-year gap seems to have done a lot of good and it hopefully translates into the Circle.

Daniyal Zainalov

ONE signings Daniyal Zainalov
Daniyal Zainalov via Sherdog.

This undefeated Russian Light-Heavyweight just has a 6-0 record, but he’s actually on a thirteen-fight win streak.

Zainalov began his amateur MMA career back in 2013 and hasn’t tasted defeat since 2016. This amazing run resulted in his becoming the Yamal FC Light Heavyweight Champion in December of last year.

This makes him one of the better ONE signings in recent years. Not only are his skills obviously sharpened in the amateurs, but he’s also been able to translate his success in the pro ranks. Three of his six wins were first-round knockouts, while another was a win via rear-naked choke.

While a heavyweight who knows their way on the ground isn’t exactly rare, fights don’t usually end that way. This just shows that Zainalov is tested in both areas of combat.

He’ll definitely light up either the Light-Heavyweight or Middleweight divisions and maybe even give Aung La something to think about.

Shamil Abdulaev

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Shamil Abdulaev via Tapology.

The journey of an MMA fighter is never predictable but it often follows a linear path. This is not the case with Shamil Abdulaev.

For most of his career, he has bounced between professional and amateur fights. While most people understand that there’s a clear line between those two stages that athletes can only cross one way, Abdulaev missed that memo.

This is a strange way to conduct a career and it unclear what kind of effect if any it actually has on his skillset. While we hope that he can translate his regional and amateur success to the ONE Circle, current ONE athletes would do well not to sleep on him.

This is an endurance fighter who’s more than happy to wear his opponents down. Most of the people he’s faced he either dominated or quit.

Theoretically, all you have to do to win against a knockout artist is to take the fight to the ground or evade them. Similarly, a fighter can survive a submission specialist with good takedown defense.

But what can you do against someone whose specialty is outlasting you?

Anatoly Malykhin

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Anatoly Malykhin via Asian MMA.

Now, this is the guy out of all the ONE signings that we’re most excited for. Malykhin is a genuinely undefeated fighter at 8-0 with a collection of submissions and knockouts to display his versatility.

But what sets this Russian Heavyweight apart from the rest is his composure when booked against experienced competition.

Twice he was booked against fighters with much more ring experience than him.

The first was against Baga Agaev (28-20) at Fight Night Global 91 when he was just 3-0. The second was against Alexei Kudin (24-12) in the main event of Fight Night Global 93 when he was 5-0.

We don’t know the exact quality of both those opponents. But imagine being three or five fights in your pro career and stand across someone with literally 10-20 times more fights than you.

There’s no way anyone on the roster is intimidating him.

All these guys are a welcome sight to add much-needed blood in these divisions. Stick around when we look at the other ONE signings and see which ones to look out for.


Follow me on Twitter at @BjornPossel and follow us @OT_Heroics for more great content!

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