Yuya Wakamatsu is known for his punching power and 79% of his 14 victories have come via knockout. At ONE on TNT Part III this week he was able to show some different elements to his game, scoring a unanimous decision win over Reece McLaren.

McLaren is a BJJ black belt and Wakamatsu prevailed after getting the better of numerous scrambles. So despite failing to win by his customary KO the ‘little piranha’ was very content with his performance,

“Actually, I’m very happy with my performance because usually everything is knockout. Everything is striking. But recently I was able to show my grappling. I’ve never succeeded in grappling against such a top opponent. Previously if my striking doesn’t go well and it goes to a decision, usually I lose. But this time around I was able to show striking and also mix the grappling and unleash my new potential, so this was a great victory for me,” said Wakamatsu.

Tough opponent

Wakamatsu didn’t get the KO on this occasion but it wasn’t for lack of trying. He tagged McLaren on numerous occasions and was impressed by the Australian’s resilience,

“I was giving him a lot of clear shots, but I guess he is tough. He has a very strong heart, and he is very motivated. In the third round on the ground I gave him a very good knee but he still scrambled and stood up against so I guess he has a very strong heart,” he said.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing for #4 ranked Wakamatsu. McLaren showed some excellent scrambles and was able to take his opponent’s back on several occasions.

Takedowns and grappling

There was also a spell at the end of the first round in which McLaren seemed to have seized the initiative with his takedowns and grappling,

“I’m always practicing my takedown defense but unfortunately Reece is a really good grappler, so I went to the ground,” said Wakamatsu.

On this occasion Wakamatsu’s attempts to scramble and reverse were thwarted but the Japanese flyweight was saved by the bell,

“I (normally) try to escape after my opponent gets my back but this time I tried to escape before my opponent reaches the back. There was one point where Reece was in the mount position that’s where I thought he was very dangerous but there was only a couple of seconds left so I was able to avoid it,” he said.

Strong position

The win now puts Wakamatsu in a very strong position. Since back-to-back losses at the hands of Danny Kingad and Demetrious Johnson he has put together a four fight winning streak.

Kairat Akhmetov is the other flyweight currently ahead of him in the rankings, which have not been updated since ONE on TNT Part III. Having beaten McLaren he is very confident he would prevail against the Kazakh and avenge his loss to Kingad,

“Actually, to get the title shot I thought that I’d have to fight three (opponents); Danny, Reece and Khairat. The toughest of all three for me is Reece and tonight I beat him so now I’m very confident in myself and ready to beat the other two too,” said Wakamatsu.

He does not want to work his way gradually up the rankings. Having won four fights in a row and beaten a top five opponent Wakamatsu hopes his next opponent will be reigning flyweight champion Adriano Moraes,

“I’m very confident with my grappling now because of the result today. Even if it’s a rematch against Danny or DJ I’m very confident that I’m going to win. But my plan is to become the champion first and then defend my belt against Danny and DJ. That’s my great story.”