ONE Championship plays Manila anew at MOA Arena; Pacio, Saruta in rematch

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Yosuke Saruta v Joshua Pacio
Filipino Joshua Pacio (right) looks to reclaim the world strawweight title from Japanese Yosuke Saruta in ONE Championship’s “Roots of Honor” event today at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena. -- ALVIN S. GO

ONE CHAMPIONSHIP plays its Manila show anew today with its latest offering, “ONE: Roots of Honor,” at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Headlined by the world featherweight title clash between reigning champion Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen of Australia and former champ Narantungalag Jadambaa of Mongolia, Roots of Honor will be the second descent of the promotion in the country this year.

Serving as co-main event is the world strawweight title rematch of champion Yosuke Saruta of Japan and Filipino Joshua “The Passion” Pacio.

The event will be in follow-up to the successful first foray in Japan by ONE two weeks ago.

Considering what is on tap for the latest Manila show, local fight analyst Nissi Icasiano said Roots of Honor should be another exciting night for local mixed martial arts fans.

“This should be a fascinating battle between one of the promotion’s most battle-hardened veterans and one of the new generation of dynamic athletes who is still reaching his prime,” said Mr. Icasiano when asked by BusinessWorld for his thoughts on the ONE event, particularly the Nguyen-Jadambaa headlining fight.

“Nguyen made history by becoming the organization’s first two-division world champion thanks to a pair of the most spectacular one-punch knockouts ever seen in ONE. Now, he has chosen to focus on his natural weight class and put all his energy into building a legacy as a legendary ruler of the featherweight division. Jadambaa plans on upsetting those plans by completing a remarkable return to the top to become the oldest world champion in ONE history. Nguyen has youth and speed on his side, but Jadambaa has the power to reclaim the crown. It is anyone’s guess as to who will emerge with their hand raised,” he added.

Mr. Nguyen (11-3) is coming off an unsuccessful foray in bantamweight, losing to Filipino Kevin Belingon in July last year.

Forty-three-year-old Jadambaa (14-5), meanwhile, is currently on a two-fight winning streak and is angling to return to the top of the division since being crowned as champion in 2014.

For the Pacio-Saruta rematch, Mr. Icasiano said the second fight should provide some clarity following a highly disputed split decision the first time around that saw Mr. Pacio lose his title.

The analyst said the protagonists could only be expected to bring it once again and churn out a more convincing outcome.

“The first meeting between Pacio and Saruta was so close — and the verdict so widely debated — that ONE big boss Chatri Sityodtong ordered the contest to be run back immediately in a bid to produce a more definitive result. It (second fight) gives Saruta the chance to cement his position as the one true king of the strawweights. Meanwhile, it offers Pacio the opportunity to reverse the outcome of the first bout and reclaim the belt he believes he did not deserve to lose,” Mr. Icasiano said.

“Though their first clash showed both men are evenly matched, they each have ways to finish. Pacio’s creative striking is backed up by a sneaky submission game. On the other hand, Saruta packs serious power in his fists, as well as the strength to force a tap on the mat if he gets the chance,” he added.

Meanwhile, other Filipinos seeing action at Roots of Honor are Team Lakay’s Edward “The Ferocious” Kelly against South Korea’s Sung Jong Lee in a featherweight clash and Eric “The Natural” Kelly versus Korean Kwon Won Il.

Strawweight Ramon Gonzales is also on tap against Japanese Akihiro Fujisawa.

ONE: Roots of Honor will be shown live over the ONE mobile app and in the Philippines over ABS-CBN S+A, beginning at 8:30 p.m., and iWant Sports. — — Michael Angelo S. Murillo