Reece “Lightning” McLaren may have just punched his ticket to a ONE Flyweight World Title bout – again.
The 26-year-old Gold Coast, Australia native had already secured a championship opportunity, but he wanted to remain active, and was willing to gamble with his number one contender’s status against Japan’s Tatsumitsu “The Sweeper” Wada.
Fortunately for McLaren, the gamble paid off.
On Saturday, 7 July, “Lightning” bested the two-time DEEP Flyweight Champion via split decision at ONE: BATTLE FOR THE HEAVENS to solidify his standing as the division’s top contender.
The contest was competitive from the opening bell.
Wada took an unorthodox stance, which made it difficult for “Lightning” to land clean strikes early in the first stanza. McLaren tried to take the match to the ground, but the Japanese athlete defended well.
Following an accidental kick that landed low, the Australian went for a takedown and even clinched with his adversary, but it was the “The Sweeper” who brought him to the canvas.
Wada was methodical when he dropped his ground strikes, but left enough room for McLaren to attempt a triangle choke. The 29-year-old Tokyo, Japan resident quickly escaped the submission, and action resumed on the feet. They closed the frame exchanging strikes in the clinch.
In the second round, the Aussie recommitted his efforts to bring the match to his favored battleground on the mat. He masterfully hit a double-leg takedown on Wada, and landed strategic ground strikes while attempting to advance position.
At one point, McLaren got the full mount, and then transitioned to his rival’s back during a scramble. He tried his hardest to secure the rear-naked choke, and later an armbar, but “The Sweeper” maintained his cool and displayed tremendous defense.
With the match too close to call, Wada turned up the aggressiveness in the final stanza, and dragged the Australian to the canvas early in the frame. “Lightning” remained calm, and threw elbows and strikes from the bottom.
The action was restarted halfway through the stanza, and McLaren went to work. The Gold Coast native landed some fierce strikes, and, from the clinch, hit an inside leg-trip takedown. He maintained top position, went for a choke, and then transitioned to full mount in the waning seconds of the contest.
It was a close battle, but McLaren left the Guangzhou Tianhe Gymnasium in China with the split decision victory.
He improves his record to 12-5, and will look to secure a bout with undisputed ONE Flyweight World Champion Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio in the near future.