Reece “Lightning” McLaren went undefeated inside the Circle in 2022, leaving the year as the #4-ranked flyweight after a pair of fine performances.
The Australian recovered from a lonesome loss the year prior, where he only competed once in ONE Championship and came up short against ONE Flyweight World Title challenger Yuya Wakamatsu.
“Lightning” saw much better rounds this year, giving him very little to critique.
“I was pretty stoked in 2022,” McLaren said. “I would’ve liked to win a bonus, that would’ve been nice. But that didn’t happen either, but it’s all good. I’ll just try to keep getting better, and every single time you’ll see a better me in there.”
McLaren returned to action in June at ONE 158, meeting Chinese standout Xie Wei in top flyweight action. Showing the improvements he made to his overall game, the Gold Coast native picked up a first-round rear-naked choke of Xie, becoming the first man to submit “The Hunter” under the ONE banner.
McLaren also suffered an early knockdown in that one-round blitz, making the rally back all the more exciting.
“For sure it was a fun one,” “Lightning” said. “He hadn’t been stopped and I was the first one to stop him and it was inside the first with a choke. I survived his most dangerous weapons, his hands.”
The 16-8 scrapper has always showcased a strong grappling prowess in his ONE tenure, but last October at ONE 162, McLaren presented his evolving striking talents against fellow grappling expert Windson Ramos.
Many expected a festival of grappling over the course of three rounds, but it was McLaren who flipped the script on the Brazilian, rendering Ramos unable to leave the stool for the third round.
“I think we had a pretty dominant and strong advantage on the feet, so we kept it there. In a way, I’m a bit disappointed. If we had come to the third he was going to get more smoke. He didn’t want anymore, so he did the best thing,” he said.
Following a positive 2022, the BJJ black belt sits at #4 among ONE’s flyweight division and is eyeing up a World Title opportunity this coming year.
As he enters 2023 closer to a championship bout than ever before, “Lightning” wants to stake his claim under Demetrious Johnson when the promotion journeys west to the United States on Friday, 5 May, for ONE Fight Night 10: Johnson vs. Moraes III.
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“I think one of the biggest markets in mixed martial arts is the United States, and just getting there alone is a huge step. I would absolutely love to be on that card. I think you’ll have the most eyes on it. DJ draws a card. I mean, who doesn’t want to be on it?