Decorated BJJ competitor Reese “Lightning” McLaren came to ONE: BATTLE FOR THE HEAVENS in Guangzhou, China knowing he could book a World Title shot if he could beat Tatsumitsu Wada.
McLaren (11-5) had already secured a bout with ONE Flyweight World Champion Geje Eustaquio, but the Australian mixed martial artist risked it all to stay active and take on “The Sweeper” (19-8-2 (1 NC)) on Saturday, 7 July.
It was a risky move against the DEEP Flyweight Champion, who was on an eight-bout win streak, and Wada was tenacious in the first round, using a body lock to throw McLaren on the mat early on.
Wada postured up to throw elbows, and found his mark as McLaren defended from guard. The Japanese athlete stood up when McLaren tried to attack with his legs, and both men traded hard strikes to end the round.
McLaren changed his fortunes with a double-leg takedown to start the second stanza, and from there, Wada was made to defend. “Lightning” showed off his world-class Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills, transitioning straight into full mount from a standing position, before chaining rear-naked choke and armbar submission attempts.
Wada was able to survive each attack, but ended the round under serious pressure.
The final round brought a sense of urgency out of “The Sweeper” as he pushed McLaren to the ropes. He scored a takedown and damaged McLaren with a hard left elbow on the ground.
With about half of the round remaining, they stood back up, and then it was McLaren’s turn to score a takedown. He finished strong by taking his opponent’s back, getting full mount, and going for another armbar in the bout’s final 30 seconds.
The judges had a difficult job deciding this contest, but in the end, two out of the three officials favoured the Australian.
He improved his professional record to 12-5, and reconfirmed his intentions to compete for the gold in his next bout in the post-bout interview.