Reece “Lightning” McLaren has proven without a shadow of a doubt that he truly is the top contender in ONE Championship’s stacked flyweight division.
The Filipino-Australian had a thunderous divisional debut last November when he submitted Anatpong Bunrad with a spectacular choke. On Friday, 9 March, he followed that up with a feat that was just as impressive.
McLaren clashed with Malaysia’s Gianni Subba in the main event of ONE: VISIONS OF VICTORY in his opponent’s hometown of Kuala Lumpur. It was a risky bout he took on short notice, when Subba stepped up after flyweight king Adriano Moraes pulled out due to injury.
Nonetheless, in front of a roaring Axiata Arena, McLaren finished the local hero via arm-triangle choke in the second round.
“We knew Subba has [good] hands, and he is big for the division. He uses his length very, very well, and hits hard,” the 26-year-old Aussie explains. “It was a case of negating the stand-up, and threatening with takedowns to change the cadence of the bout.”
“Lightning” used striking to set up his takedowns, ultimately connecting with one in the final minute of the opening stanza, and then transitioned from position to position before the bell rang to end the round.
He continued to engage in a stand-up battle with Subba in the second frame. But with two minutes left in the round, he hit a double leg takedown, landed in full mount, and secured the tap with a match-ending arm-triangle choke.
“It was a classic jab to front knee tap that I chained into a double [leg takedown], which Subba sprawled on. So I switched the angle to the back, where Subba lost balance, and the takedown was finally successful,” McLaren details of the final sequence.
“While the takedown was successful, I transitioned onto mount, and felt I had his arm. I went for the choke, and the rest is history.”
Now, with the stoppage victory over Subba, McLaren has once again secured his shot at the ONE Flyweight World Championship. However, which titleholder he faces next remains a mystery.
There is ONE Flyweight World Champion Adriano Moraes, who was originally supposed to defend his belt against “Lightning,” before an untimely injury during training forced him to withdraw from the main event tilt in Malaysia.
Also, there is Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio, who captured the ONE Interim Flyweight World Championship after besting former champ Kairat Akhmetov in January.
Truth be told, McLaren does not really have a preference. He is motivated to simply call himself a world champion, and would like to challenge the titleholder who is the most prepared to defend their respective world title.
“Both bouts intrigue me the same,” the Aussie says. “I want to compete against the best in the world. Both men hold gold, so I would like to face both just the same. Whomever is fittest and healthiest.”
McLaren would like to challenge for the world title relatively soon. Ideally, he would like for the match to take place as soon as ONE: UNSTOPPABLE DREAMS in Singapore later this May, or perhaps at ONE: REIGN OF KINGS in his adopted hometown of Manila in July.
Nonetheless, “Lightning” will be ready to strike any time he gets the call, because winning the flyweight world title means everything to him.
“It is was I have been dreaming of since I can ever remember,” he admits. “It is a lifetime goal, but to just win is not enough. I want more.”
Evidently, he is not the only one who wants more.
McLaren has been inspired by his dear friend, ONE Featherweight & Lightweight World Champion Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen.
Nguyen will be challenging ONE Bantamweight World Champion Bibiano Fernandes — the same man who defeated “Lightning” in his first title challenge via split decision in December 2016 — for his world title at ONE: IRON WILL on 24 March.
That is a bout McLaren has his eye on, and anticipates his friend will set a new record.
“Marty (Nguyen) is going to make history, and become a three-time world champion, something unprecedented in the history of the cage,” he says.