Gold Coast based Reece McLaren came very close to securing one of the upsets of the year, as he lost a split points decision in a closely contested bout against highly ranked bantamweight Bibiano Fernandes.
The bout co-headlined the One Championship: Age of Domination event which took place at the Mall of Asia Arena in the Philippines on Friday night.
Fernandes got the early takedown within the opening minute and immediately pushed McLaren against the cage. McLaren worked back to his feet but in the process took a knee. Fernandes continued to press and secured another takedown midway through the round, this time working in short ground-and-pound for the rest of the round.
McLaren came out fresh in the second round and successfully defended the first takedown attempt and landing a nice right that seemed to pop Fernandes into another gear. The Brazilian immediately came forward with strikes before pressing for a takedown against the cage. McLaren again defended and was able to get off the cage. Fernandes landed with a straight right and with McLaren standing toe-to-toe, Fernandes landed another right before securing a takedown and the back. With the body triangle locked in, Fernandes landed a series of elbows to McLaren’s shoulder. The Australian based fighter remained calm, even managing to make a face for the camera as the round ended.
McLaren landed a big left to start the third round which immediately upped the tempo of the fight with Fernandes taking center of the cage and McLaren circling and picking his shots on the outside. McLaren defended the takedown attempt and landed a nice left as they separated. Fernandes continued to press, landing the better of exchanges in the late part of the round.
With Fernandes pressing forward, McLaren changed levels and momentarily secured the takedown before the Brazilian popped straight back to his feet. A straight right dropped McLaren and the champion looked to pounce immediately as McLaren popped back to his feet and regathered his senses. Fernandes continued with heavy leg kicks that looked to be starting to have an impact however one landed to the groin that forced the contest to be halted in the final part of the round.
With all to fight for in the fifth and final round, McLaren started the round looking for a takedown and with Fernandes defending, McLaren landed a strike on the break. McLaren continued to counter off the back foot as both fighters raised the tempo in the final seconds of the fight.
With the fight scored overall, Fernandes secured the win getting the nod on two judges’ score cards with the Brazilian defending his One bantamweight title for the fifth time.
McLaren, a 25-year-old PUMMA gym fighter will walk away knowing that he can match it with the best in the world.
In the main event, former UFC heavyweight Brandon Vera successfully defended the heavyweight title with a first round stoppage over Hideki Sekine.