ONE CHAMPIONSHIP world strawweight champion Joshua Pacio of the Philippines — ONE CHAMPIONSHIP

FOR the third time, reigning ONE Championship world strawweight champion Joshua “The Passion” Pacio of the Philippines will take on Japanese Yosuke Saruta in a title clash.

And for the Team Lakay stalwart, he is still thrilled to face Mr. Saruta, looking at it as a chance to showcase his improvement as a fighter against an opponent he considers as one of his motivations.

“I want this to be over with, so I can move on,” said Mr. Pacio in a recent media conference with local sports media for “ONE: Revolution” happening on Friday. “He’s the number one contender for the title and he deserves a shot.”

Messrs. Pacio (18-3) and Saruta (21-9-3) will fight in a rubber match in Revolution after splitting their previous two encounters.

The Japanese took the strawweight title from the Filipino in a controversial split decision in January 2019, but Mr. Pacio bounced back three months later by reclaiming the belt with a knockout win over Mr. Saruta in their rematch.

That set the stage for their third fight, part of a stacked ONE Revolution card featuring three world title fights.

“I’m excited and we’re ready for this fight. I want to show how I have improved as a fighter,” Mr. Pacio said.

“Saruta and the other contenders are part of my motivation to continue to grow as an athlete, to be a better martial artist. Through them, I got to see my weaknesses, the things that I need to improve on,” he added.

Twenty-five-year-old Mr. Pacio last fought in January last year, defeating former champion Alex Silva of Brazil by split decision.

Unfortunately, the pandemic forced Mr. Pacio to a long layoff.

Mr. Saruta, 34, for his part, last saw action in ONE in October 2019, winning over compatriot Daichi Kitakata by second-round knockout.

For local fight analyst Nissi Icasiano, Pacio-Saruta III is going to be interesting, considering how their previous fights panned out and the possible effects of the pandemic-forced inaction on the two fighters.

“For Joshua, we have to remember that training and actual competition are two different things. There are certain aspects that only actual competition can provide. And I believe this was the longest layoff he had ever gone through in his young career. It will be intriguing how Joshua Pacio will dust himself off and shrug off the cobwebs come fight night,” the analyst said.

“Second is the fact that this is a rubber match… Let’s take note that there is an element of familiarity here in this third. It’s a no-brainer that they already know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. There will be adjustments in the fight, but it will be very minimal,” he added.

But the analyst highlighted that Mr. Pacio being the more well-rounded between the two will serve him in good stead.

“As seen in their last two fights, Pacio can trade strikes in the stand-up as well as carry himself efficiently on the ground with Saruta,” he said.

Mr. Pacio has to go out and claim it though, Mr. Icasiano further said.

“Joshua has to mix it up with Saruta. Like in the second meeting, he has to keep Saruta guessing. By doing so, he will be able to dictate the pace from start to finish against an opponent like Saruta who gets really frustrated and flustered when he’s not on the driver’s seat,” said the analyst.

Also featured in ONE: Revolution is the lightweight world championship clash between champion Christian Lee (Singapore/United States) and challenger Ok Rae Yoon (South Korea) as well as the bantamweight kickboxing world championship bout between Thai champion Capitan and Algerian challenger Mehdi Zatout.

ONE: Revolution will take place at the Singapore Indoor Stadium and will be broadcast live over One Sports on Friday, beginning at 6:30 p.m. and over the ONE mobile app. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo