Breaking Down The Flyweight Mixed Martial Arts Division

The top guns of ONE Championship's flyweight mixed martial arts divisions

The flyweight mixed martial arts division is about to enter the spotlight once again.

On Friday, 9 October, undefeated juggernaut Aleksi “The Giant” Toivonen will battle #5-ranked flyweight contender Reece “Lightning” McLaren in the co-main event of ONE: REIGN OF DYNASTIES.

Whoever wins this thrilling contest could be a victory or two away from challenging for the ONE Flyweight World Title.

Before those warriors meet in the Circle, let’s take a deep look at the promotion’s flyweight mixed martial arts division.

The Reigning King

Adriano “Mikinho” Moraes has established himself as the division’s reigning king, and it will be difficult to unseat him from the throne.

The 32-year-old is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt with endless cardio and a Muay Thai arsenal in his back pocket.

The Brazilian originally claimed the ONE Flyweight World Title by submitting Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio in September 2014, and though he lost the gold twice via razor-thin split decisions, he always came back stronger to reclaim the belt. Most recently, “Mikinho” accomplished the feat again in January 2019.

Along the way, Moraes has defeated some of the top athletes in his weight class, including #2-ranked contender Danny “The King” Kingad via first-round submission and #3-ranked contender Kairat “The Kazakh” Akhmetov via unanimous decision in their second battle during August 2017.

Moraes has been a fixture at the top for some time, and all three of his losses came via split decision. However, there are a number of talented athletes who believe they can take him down for good.

The Next Challenger

Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson entered The Home Of Martial Arts with a legendary reputation.

The American joined the promotion as an elite all-around talent and a 12-time Mixed Martial Arts World Champion with a 27-3-1 professional record.

Since signing with the world’s largest martial arts organization in October 2018, he has added three consecutive victories to his slate.

First, he overcame Yuya “Little Piranha” Wakamatsu’s firepower and submitted him in the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix quarterfinals. Next, he defeated another Japanese star in Tatsumitsu “The Sweeper” Wada via unanimous decision in the tournament semifinals.

Finally, Johnson capped off a stellar 2019 by outworking Kingad in the final round to win the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix Championship. Along with the silver belt, the division’s #1-ranked contender earned the right to challenge Moraes.

The Former Rivals

Flyweight stars Danny Kingad and Kairat Akhmetov

Two fearsome men are chomping at the bit to face “Mikinho” once again.

Although Moraes handed Kingad his first professional loss in November 2017, the Filipino wushu specialist rebounded well. “The King” vastly improved his grappling and won seven of his next eight bouts, with the only loss coming to Johnson.

Now, Kingad is on the cusp of another ONE World Championship opportunity, and another victory could secure him the title shot he desires.

Meanwhile, Akhmetov could also be one step away from a long-awaited trilogy bout with the Brazilian dynamo.

The Kazakhstani wrestling machine originally beat Moraes via split decision to claim the gold in his promotional debut back in November 2015, but an injury sidelined him for the next year. When he returned, Akhmetov dropped the belt to “Mikinho” via unanimous decision in August 2017 and has been determined to fight his way back to a third bout ever since.

Now, Akhmetov is on a two-fight winning streak after dominating “The Southern Eagle” Ma Hao Bin with his grappling in September 2018 and narrowly beating  McLaren in March 2019 before succumbing to the injury bug.

If “The Kazakh” can defeat another top contender, he could find himself back at the top of the queue.

The Knockout Artist

Japanese rising star Yuya Wakamatsu pumps his fist

Wakamatsu had a rough start to life in The Home Of Martial Arts.

The Japanese star fell to the division’s elite in his first two promotional appearances, losing to Kingad by a narrow decision and Johnson by submission. However, “Little Piranha” bounced back in a major way.

In August 2019, Wakamatsu defeated Eustaquio in less than two minutes, and he became the first person to knock out the former ONE Flyweight World Champion. Then, two months later, he ripped through former ONE Bantamweight World Title challenger “Ottogi” Dae Hwan Kim to earn a unanimous decision.

Those outstanding victories helped “Little Piranha” secure the #4-ranked contender spot, and he is always one punch away from rising further up the rankings.

The Co-Main Event Stars

REIGN OF DYNASTIES Co-Main Event Performers Aleksi Toivonen and Reece McLaren

ONE: REIGN OF DYNASTIES will be the continuation of a potential World Title campaign from the two co-main event performers.

Toivonen holds a spotless 7-0 (2 NC) professional record, owns a 100 percent finishing rate, and six of his career victories have come in the first round.

The unbeaten Finn is an explosive grappler with heavy punches, and he displayed his well-rounded skills in his promotional debut against Akihiro “Superjap” Fujisawa in July 2019. He would submit the Japanese athlete via rear-naked choke in the opening stanza.

McLaren may not have the same dazzling mixed martial arts record at 13-7, but the jiu-jitsu wiz has consistently fought against top-level competitors ever since making his first ONE appearance on short notice in December 2015, when he defeated Mark “Mugen” Striegl.

Since then, the Aussie handed Muin “Tajik” Gafurov his first professional loss, pushed dominant ONE Bantamweight World Champion Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes to his limit before dropping a hotly contested split decision, and earned four wins at flyweight over the likes of Wada, Anatpong Bunrad, Gianni Subba, and Gurdarshan “Saint Lion” Mangat.

“Lightning” currently holds the #5 spot in ONE’s Athlete Rankings at flyweight, and his BJJ black belt expertise, wrestling ability, boxing acumen, and nonstop motor could ultimately shoot him to the very top.

For now, whoever wins the battle on 9 October has a chance to truly assert himself as a serious threat to the flyweight order.

Read more: Sam-A, Tonna, Toivonen, McLaren To Headline ONE: REIGN OF DYNASTIES

More in Features

Scottish Muay Thai fighter Amy Pirnie
Jarred Brooks Joshua Pacio ONE 166 12
Hiroba Minowa Gustavo Balart ONE 165 77
Nico Carrillo Saemapetch Fairtex ONE Fight Night 23 40
Ok Rae Yoon Alibeg Rasulov ONE Fight Night 23 36
Ok Rae Yoon Lowen Tynanes ONE Fight Night 10 68
Muangthai PK Saenchai Nico Carrillo ONE Friday Fights 22 38
Pictures from Eddie Alvarez vs. Ok Rae Yoon from "ONE on TNT IV"
Alibeg Rasulov
Prajanchai PK Saenchai Jonathan Di Bella ONE Friday Fights 68 77
Jonathan Di Bella lands punches on Zhang Peimian
Luke Lessei Eddie Abasolo ONE Fight Night 19 49