Reece “Lightning” McLaren is eager to continue making his mark on the flyweight division when he meets Gianni Subba at ONE: Visions of Victory on March 9.
McLaren was originally scheduled for a main event showdown with Adriano Moraes, the flyweight champion. However, after Moraes suffered an unfortunate knee injury and was forced to withdraw from the event, McLaren now finds himself matched against one of the ever-dangerous Subba brothers.
25 minutes with the best
After storming past his first two opponents in ONE Championship, McLaren earned himself a shot at the bantamweight champion, Bibiano Fernandes.
The matchup proved to be a five-round back-and-forth war between two highly skilled mixed martial artists. McLaren pushed Fernandes to limits that he had not experienced in a long time; he busted up the nose of the champion and began riding a wave of momentum through the middle rounds. The Australian showcased his usual confidence and swagger inside the cage while exciting the crowd in Manila.
At the end of it all, though, the judges decided that McLaren had not done enough for victory and awarded a split decision to Bibiano Fernandes.
Despite being within reach of the title and falling short, McLaren only takes positives from the contest. “Lightning” explained to The Body Lock that fighting a world-class fighter such as Bibiano Fernandes felt like “five years of fighting in just 25 minutes,” and that the experience is invaluable.
Part of the game
In August 2017, McLaren was then scheduled to take on the intense Filipino fighter, Kevin Belingon. The Australian entered the contest as the favored fighter in the matchup, but a stunning right hand from Belingon crushed McLaren’s hopes of returning to winning ways.
Unlike the shattering feeling of losing a narrow split decision to the champion, McLaren now experienced the ultimate price for a costly mistake 1:02 into the first round.[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=”16″]”It was a crappy experience. I was only in there for a minute and wasn’t able to get started. It’s part of the game. You get caught and that’s it; it’s all she wrote.”[/perfectpullquote]
Reflecting on the moment inside the cage, McLaren recalls the “looping rocket of a right hand” that ended his night in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=”16″]”I stuffed up a bit, and didn’t throw my right hand how I usually do. I thought he would move out of the way, but he didn’t and landed what some might see as a beautiful punch. It’s a wushu punch, not a boxing punch. A looping rocket of a right hand. Some people see it as beautiful and I see it as ugly. Ugly works sometimes.”[/perfectpullquote]
Despite being rocked by this devastating power punch from Belingon, McLaren was actively trying to stay in the contest.
“I wanted to keep going. Why are you stopping it if I’m not dead yet? It’s just the mentality you have to have when fighting, I believe. You have to never think of losing, you’ve gotta keep pushing.”
Making a statement
In a way, the loss to Belingon opened up doors that were yet to be explored for “Lightning”.
In his next contest, McLaren stepped outside of the bantamweight category for the first time in his career and immediately made a statement in the flyweight division when he became the first to finish Anatpong Bunrad.
The submission finish was about as mesmerizing as it gets inside a mixed martial arts cage. McLaren seamlessly transitioned through a variety of chokes from the north-south position before eventually tapping Bunrad from a modified mount.
For McLaren, the finishing sequence was an excellent representation of his abilities as a grappler.[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=”16″]”If anything, one of the strengths of my jiu-jitsu game is to go from attack to attack. It kind of catches people unaware and when they start to guard the attack, I begin exposing where their guard is weak.”[/perfectpullquote]
Visions of Victory
McLaren will be competing in the flyweight division for the second time in his career when he faces Gianni Subba at ONE: Visions of Victory in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Although he is surely disappointed about missing out on the opportunity to compete for the ONE Flyweight Championship on March 9, McLaren understands that a dominant performance in the main event will set him up that shot with Moraes that he was eagerly awaiting.
When Reece “Lightning” McLaren steps into the ONE Championship cage again next weekend, you can expect to see the submission grappling skill, overwhelming confidence, and intense determination to succeed that we have seen from McLaren previously.
Jake Nichols is The Body Lock's Editor in Chief. Previously, he was the MMA Editor at RealSport.