Filipino star Danny “The King” Kingad produced one of the best performances of his career as he battled past the relentless grappling of Australian Reece “Lightning” McLaren in Manila and advanced to the finals of the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix.
Kingad, 23, earned a split-decision victory after a competitive semifinal contest at ONE: DAWN OF HEROES. The fans inside the Mall Of Asia Arena hailed their hero with a deafening roar when his arm was raised in victory.
"THE KING" CONQUERS "LIGHTNING
"THE KING" CONQUERS "LIGHTNING In a back-and-forth thriller, hometown hero Danny "The King" Kingad edges a game Reece McLaren by split decision!: Check local listings for global TV broadcast: Watch on the ONE Super App http://bit.ly/ONESuperAppPosted by ONE Championship on Friday, 2 August 2019
The first big roar of the contest came just seconds into the opening round when “The King” shrugged off McLaren’s knee-tap attempt and clipped the Aussie with a fast left hand counter. It set the tone for the contest. “Lightning” took the contest into his comfort zone on the ground, while Kingad looked to maximize his striking advantage on the feet.
But that is not to say that the Filipino was not a threat on the mat, too. He nearly surprised McLaren with an audacious armbar attempt that the XFC and Eternal MMA Champion escaped before the Team Lakay product locked up the hold.
The action was fast and furious on the ground as the pair switched positions and battled back and forth on the canvas. And, after fighting off a succession of rear-naked choke attempts, Kingad reversed position in the round’s closing seconds as the Manila crowd showed their appreciation.
After spending much of the opening round on the canvas, Kingad came out all guns blazing and connected with a host of spectacular strikes as he forced the Australian onto the back foot in the early exchanges of the second round.
McLaren used the Filipino’s over-zealous approach to his advantage as he countered a flying knee attempt with a takedown to stop the local hero’s momentum. But despite “Lightning’s” grappling pressure, Kingad’s ground defense held firm.
After a touch of gloves, the pair came out for the third round, with McLaren miming a matador’s flourish as “The King” swung and missed with a big punch. It only seemed to fire up the Filipino, who loaded up and let fly with his biggest strikes of the contest.
As the final round progressed, and with “Lightning” starting to breathe heavily, Kingad poured on the pressure as he took his man to the mat, landed in side control, and unloaded elbows on McLaren’s face.
As the final bell sounded, both men leaned forward and put their hands on their knees in exhaustion as they paid respect to each other’s efforts after a thrilling back-and-forth contest.
It meant the judges would decide who reached the final of the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix, and it was Kingad who got the nod from two of the three judges.
“The King” moved to 14-1 in his mixed martial arts career and punched his ticket to the tournament finale on 13 October at ONE: CENTURY in Tokyo, where he will take on tonight’s fellow finalist, Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson.