MAKE IT three current world champions in Asia’s largest mixed martial arts organization for fabled Baguio City group Team Lakay. This, after Joshua “The Passion” Pacio emerged as victorious in his title quest for the world strawweight title in ONE Championship at the weekend at “ONE: Conquest of Heroes” in Indonesia.
Faced Yoshitaka “Nobita” Naito of Japan for the second time for the 126-lb division gold, Mr. Pacio made sure that he would not fall for a second time to the Japanese, showcasing his highly improved game that the erstwhile champion just could not match up in the end as the Filipino ran away with the title by way of unanimous decision at the Jakarta Convention Center on Saturday night.
Back in October 2016 the two fighters collided for the strawweight title for the first time where Mr. Naito won by submission (rear-naked choke) in the third round to successfully defend the belt.
Last weekend, Mr. Naito went anew to his vaunted grappling skills but Mr. Pacio showed that he was far wiser to fall to such once again, countering with his solid takedown and grappling defense to complement his crisp and clean combinations throughout the contest to rock his opponent and book the championship win.
The win put Mr. Pacio (13-2) in the company of stable mates Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio (flyweight) and Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon (bantamweight/interim) as ONE Championship world champions from Team Lakay.
Lightweights Eduard “Landslide” Folayang and Honorio “The Rock “ Banario (as featherweight) were former Team Lakay ONE champions.
Following his victory, Mr. Pacio, 22, was very grateful for finally realizing his dream of earning a world championship title even as he dedicated the win to residents of Baguio and Benguet who were recently devastated by Typhoon Ompong (international name: Mangkhut).
“I’m speechless, but I want to thank the Lord Jesus Christ, and ONE Championship for the privilege and this unexplainable feeling. Last week, typhoons struck Baguio City, Benguet, and the Cordilleras. A lot of places were hit hard. Many people died and some are still missing. This is for all of them. I know that the Cordilleras will come back and rise again soon as one,” he said at the post-fight interview.
He was also thankful to his team for preparing him well against a tough opponent like Mr. Naito.
“I would like to thank my coach Mark Sangiao, who is here, and all our coaches, friends and sponsors. They had our backs since day one. I tried to counter his (Naito’s) takedowns and grappling, but this guy is a legend. He was so tough,” Mr. Pacio said.
Also triumphant at Conquest of Heroes was flyweight Danny “The King” Kingad, also of Team Lakay.
Mr. Kingad (11-1) came from behind to win his battle against Japanese newcomer Yuya “Little Piranha” Wakamatsu by unanimous decision.
The Filipino was in trouble for the majority of the opening round after being tagged by Mr. Wakamatsu’s hard right straight and a follow-up knee strike. Avoiding further danger in the stand-up exchanges, Mr. Kingad resorted to his wrestling in the succeeding rounds where he found his leverage by shooting for high-impact takedowns and threatening with various submissions.
In the end, his performance earned the nod of the three cageside judges for the unanimous decision win.
With the victory, Mr. Kingad now has won three straight since absorbing his first lost to former ONE flyweight champion Adriano Moraes of Brazil in November last year.
Meanwhile, Filipino women’s atomweight fighter Jomary Torres (4-1) saw her four-fight winning streak come to an end after bowing to hometown bet Priscilla Hertati Lumban Gaol by unanimous decision.
Next for ONE Championship is “Kingdom of Heroes” on Oct. 6 in Bangkok, Thailand, which will be headlined by the World Boxing Council Super Flyweight World Championship fight between champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai of Thailand against Iran Diaz of Mexico. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo