Three-time European Grappling Champion Aleksi “The Giant” Toivonen of Finland and fifth ranked flyweight contender Reece “Lightning” McLaren of Australia are both exceptional grapplers, and they will look to test each other out on the mat when they meet in the Circle.
Toivonen and McLaren will do battle in a three round flyweight contest at ONE: REIGN OF DYNASTIES, scheduled for Friday, 9 October, live from Singapore.
Similar to what the NBA has done in Orlando, FL for the 2020 NBA Playoffs, ONE Championship has put together a stringent set of protocols to ensure the health and safety of its athletes and staff in its own ‘Singapore bubble.’
Toivonen, a member of the Evolve Fight Team, is a multiple-time IBJJF No-gi Grappling European Championships with over 150 matches in competition. McLaren, on the other hand, is a BJJ black belt and former ONE World Title challenger. The two combine for 20 victories, 14 of which have ended in submissions.
“The Giant” is looking forward to an exciting grappling showcase.
“I know Reece is a great grappler – that much I know. But I don’t really watch my opponents that much, or I leave that to the coaches. But I’m expecting a very, very fan-friendly fight,” Toivonen told ONE Championship.
“My strength is always my grappling. I hope we get a chance to test each other a bit when it goes to the ground and see technically where we’re both at. But let’s just say I’m a grappler without a grappling camp this time. We’ll see what kind of tricks I bring into the cage.”
Toivonen joined ONE Championship in July of 2019, finishing ONE Warrior Series product Akihiro Fujisawa impressively via first-round rear-naked choke. An injury, as well as the effects of Covid19, effectively sidelined him for over a year, but the Finnish warrior is ready to pick up right where he left off.
“I want to get the finish like my previous fights. I’m going to get a finish, but I think it’s going to be a highly competitive fight. I think in many aspects, we’re going to test each other, and I think the best man is going to win,” said Toivonen.
“It’s my first opportunity to compete against a world-ranked opponent. So of course, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I hope that after the fight I can jump over the line and steal a spot in the top five.”
McLaren, an equally dangerous black belt grappler, and one of the top-ranked flyweights in ONE Championship, believes he is very close to securing another crack at the ONE World Title.
McLaren previously challenged for the ONE Bantamweight World Championship against reigning king Bibiano Fernandes back in 2016, and he’s been clawing his way back to the top since.
McLaren maintains that taking on the unbeaten Toivonen at this stage in his career will only further his claim to a title shot.
“That he’s undefeated doesn’t add any extra pressure. I’ve fought guys on bigger win streaks. His ground game looks solid. His biggest strength is his grappling, for sure. But he may lack in the area of wrestling,” said McLaren.
“I think a win over Toivonen will help me climb the ladder. With the current situation, a win should put me next in line for a title shot or a title eliminator.”
Brazil’s Adriano “Mikinho” Moraes sits atop the throne and is currently the undisputed ONE Flyweight World Champion. Moraes is set to face ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix Champion and former 12-time UFC champion Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson in his next defense.
But in a division that includes top talents such as Danny Kingad, Kairat Akhmetov, and Yuya Wakamatsu, securing the number one contender status is anyone’s game. Both Toivonen and McLaren look to make statements in this next bout, but only one man will emerge victorious.