FOLLOWING a string of unfavorable results recently in ONE Championship, Baguio-based Team Lakay finally caught a break in the promotion’s Manila even last Friday with two of its fighters chalking up big wins.
Strawweight Joshua “The Passion” Pacio and featherweight Edward “The Ferocious” Kelly emerged triumphant in their respective fights at “ONE: Roots of Honor” at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Mr. Pacio (14-3) reclaimed the world strawweight title which he lost early this year in his rematch with Japanese Yosuke “The Ninja” Saruta by way of a fourth-round knockout while Mr. Kelly (12-6) got back on the winning track after falling in his previous fight by topping South Korean Sung Jong Lee via a second-round technical knockout.
The twin wins for Team Lakay broke for the popular martial arts team a streak of tough losses that saw it lose all four of the ONE world titles it got from last year in a span of just three months in 2019.
First to go was Mr. Pacio’s strawweight belt in January by a narrow and controversial split decision and then in the same month Geje Eustaquio was defeated for his flyweight gold.
Then in March in ONE’s first foray in Japan, Kevin Belingon saw his reign as bantamweight champion come to an end with a disputed disqualification ruling off illegal strikes while Eduard Folayang was submitted for his lightweight crown.
In regaining the strawweight title here in Manila, Mr. Pacio, 23, showed tremendous grit and determination amid the stiff challenge he got early on from erstwhile champ Saruta, including being knocked down in the first round.
Banking on his striking, Mr. Pacio worked his way back as the contest progressed and saw his efforts pay off when he connected on a well-timed high kick that sent Mr. Saruta instantly to the canvas.
The victorious Pacio said after the fight that he was very happy with the result, more so since he looked at it as a fruit of much hard work by him and his team following the tough defeat previously.
“For this fight I wanted to go out there and do better from my previous fight. I just followed our game plan and I could not disappointment my countrymen here,” said Mr. Pacio post-fight.
Mr. Kelly, for his part, also stood tough in bringing down Korean Lee.
He got his break in the second round when he was able to turn a submission attempt from his opponent to his advantage and got on top for a ferocious stretch of pounding en route to the stoppage win.
It was mixed emotion for the night for Mr. Kelly though as he saw his older brother Eric drop his sixth straight fight with a TKO loss (punches) to Chinese Kai Tang just 19 seconds into the first round.
Meanwhile in the main event, Martin Nguyen of Australia successfully defended his world featherweight title with a second-round knockout win over Narantungalag Jadambaa of Mongolia.
Also victorious was Filipino Ramon Gonzales in a preliminary match.
Next for ONE Championship is “ONE: For Honor” on May 3 in Jakarta, Indonesia. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo