ONE Championship will feature two flyweight bouts in Colorado on its historic U.S. debut, ONE Fight Night 10. While the trilogy bout between Demetrious Johnson and Adriano Moraes deservingly grabs the headlines, a high-stakes contender’s bout will be featured earlier in the evening. #2-ranked flyweight contender Kairat Akhmetov will meet #3-ranked Reece McLaren.
But it will not be their first time meeting on the global stage. In March 2019, Akhmetov defeated McLaren by a unanimous decision. The Aussie knows what Akhmetov brings to the table but feels his evolution as a martial artist will be the deciding factor.
“Yeah, I didn’t really fight too well. I made a few mistakes, and when you’ve watched enough fighting and done it enough, you know when you’re bluffing and when you want to fight, and now I definitely want to fight. Now, I know exactly where I went wrong and what happened. So I instantly grew from it. And I’m super pumped to get back in there with me and test this new skill,” said McLaren.
“Lightning” has said that he was not trusting his natural power before making the switch to Boonchu Gym to train alongside John Wayne Parr. After feeling the strength of Akhmetov in their first meeting, he feels more comfortable exchanging in the pocket. Under the tutelage of Parr, McLaren has elevated his striking.
It has been evident in his last two victories. McLaren finished both bouts but showcased his hands in each performance. He expects to continue to show off his improved hands against the #2-ranked contender.
“This is one of the craziest things, and I’ve known this for a long time, is I needed pads. I needed to do pads. Almost all my fights, I’ve never done pads like I’m doing now. Like, you want to get fight fit, you fight, but obviously, we can’t fight. That’s not good for your longevity. But smashing pads day in and day out with the one and only John Wayne Parr. I mean, man, I think the proof is in the pudding on how my striking has been going,” said “Lightning.”
The confidence of the Australian star is building. His wrestling has remained a strength, and his striking has begun to match his grappling for a well-rounded attack. As he has improved, McLaren feels he has passed by his fellow flyweight.
“As I said the first time, he’s a little stuck in the mud. I’ll make him look more stuck in the mud this time. I have full respect for Kairat. But I’m going to train. I hope [he] trains as hard as I do,” said the Aussie.
With the main event set to finish the trilogy between Johnson and Moraes, McLaren understands a big victory has the chance to launch him into a title tilt. Everything is pointing to it being a title eliminator. Although he is not looking past Akhmetov, “Lightning” likes how he matches up with whoever walks out of Denver with the gold.
“Yeah, I think I’ll match up great against [them]. I got a big right hand. I have a big left foot and a bigger right hand, and I’m learning to make it count. It’s one of the fights. Moraes [has been] forever [at the top], and obviously, DJ is the GOAT. So you always want to fight the best. If you want to be the best, you got to beat the best. I’ll be on a three-fight win streak. I just beat number two. So it has to put me first in line. I truly believe the winner of this one will be fighting for gold. So yeah, even more reason to tune in,” said McLaren.
ONE Fight Night 10 takes place at the 1stBank Center in Colorado on Friday, May 5. The action begins at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on Prime Video. The event is free for all U.S. and Canadian Amazon Prime members.