By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
Senior Reporter

ONE Championship world strawweight champion Joshua “The Passion” Pacio of the Philippines made it a successful title defense by beating Brazilian Alex “Little Rock” Silva at “ONE: Fire & Fury” by split decision on Friday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

It was a victory that the Team Lakay bet credited to sticking to their game plan and playing it smart against a highly capable opponent and former champion like Mr. Silva.

Defending his title for the second time after reclaiming it last year, Mr. Pacio, 24, successfully fended off a determined challenge from his Brazilian opponent.

Mr. Silva, 37, spent most of the contest hunting Mr. Pacio for the takedown, at times successfully pulling the Filipino down to the ground where he held the advantage.

But showing patience and control, Mr. Pacio would hold his own with solid submission defense, and often was able to get back up to his feet.

In the standup, Pacio was also crisp, peppering Silva with pinpoint accurate combinations.

His performance all in all proved to be just enough to earn the decision on the scorecards.

Following his victory, Mr. Pacio, who improved to a 17-3 record, shared that he was aware of the need not to allow Mr. Silva have the leverage he needed to go for the win.

It was a tack that turned out well on his way to the victory.

“I think he was waiting for me to make a mistake. I was mindful of that because a BJJ (Brazilian jiu-jitsu) black belt like Alex would jump at every mistake you make. So I played it safe and smart. Not rushing things and when he caught me in a hold I did not panic, especially when got me on an arm triangle,” Mr. Pacio said.

Filipino mixed martial arts fighter Eduard Folayang lost by split decision to Dutch Peter Buist in their lightweight clash. — ALVIN S. GO

The Filipino champion went on to say that he was happy with the result but admitted he could have done more and had a convincing victory.

“I need to work more. I didn’t get the finish I was expecting. I will continue to work on my ground game and follow-up striking,” he said.

Meanwhile in the co-main event, Mr. Pacio’s Team Lakay senior Eduard “Landslide” Folayang failed to make it back-to-back wins in ONE, losing to Dutch Peter “The Archangel” Buist by split decision.

A short-notice replacement opponent, Mr. Buist’s length proved problematic early for Mr. Folayang as the latter found it difficult to gauge his opponent’s range.

The second round was huge for Mr. Buist as he found his mark and hurt the Filipino, including a solid head kick as the frame drew to a close.

In the end, two of three judges saw the bout in favor of Mr. Buist (15-4) who took home the split decision for his efforts.

Post-fight, Mr. Folayang (22-8) said he was disappointed with the result as it derailed his push to become a lightweight champion for a third time.

But he took solace in holding on to a split decision result and not losing much ground.

In other results, flyweight Danny Kingad, atomweight Gina Iniong and strawweight Lito Adiwang, all of Team Lakay, were victors while atomweight Jomary Torres saw her match ruled a no-contest after she was hit on the groin twice by opponent Jenny Hwang of Chinese Taipei and could not continue.

ONE: Fire & Fury was the first event of ONE Championship in the country for 2020.