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2021 in Review: Joshua Pacio leads PH MMA’s new breed


It was just three years ago when the Philippines had five world champions in ONE Championship.

This year, only one remains in ONE Strawweight World Champion Joshua Pacio.

But that does not mean that the local mixed martial arts is in a downswing. It is just in the process of rebuilding.

Joshua Pacio

ONE-Revolution-Joshua-Pacio-ground-and-pound-Yosuke-Saruta 2021 in Review: Joshua Pacio leads PH MMA's new breed Bandwagon Wire Mixed Martial Arts ONE Championship  - philippine sports news

Photo from ONEFC.com

Of course, Pacio leads the next generation.

Despite having 23 professional bouts under his belt, Pacio is just 25 years young. And he is just hitting his prime.

In his only bout in the calendar year, Pacio showed vast improvements, smoking Yosuke Saruta in just three minutes and 38 seconds to retain his crown during ONE: Revolution.

2022 is expected to be a tough year for Pacio as the likes of Bokang Masunyane, Jarred Brooks, and Hiroba Minowa are expected to challenge for the belt.

Pacio though is expected to come prepared for his next challengers as he leads Team Lakay’s next generation.

Denice Zamboanga

ONE-Empower-Denice-Zamboanga-bloodied 2021 in Review: Joshua Pacio leads PH MMA's new breed Bandwagon Wire Mixed Martial Arts ONE Championship  - philippine sports news

Photo from ONEFC.com

Heatbreaking was 2021 for Denice Zamboanga.

Entering the year, the 24-year-old resident of Quezon City was the undisputed top contender for ONE’s atomweight championship.

With Angela Lee out on maternity leave, ONE decided to put up a grand prix to determine who will face the champion once she returns.

Zamboanga faced South Korean Seo Hee Ham to open the tournament in what ended up as one of the most controversial bouts of the year.

Knowing that she would be outclassed in the standup game, Zamboanga took Ham to the ground in the 15-minute affair. However, the judges ruled the bout in favor of Ham.

#ReadMore  Team Lakay, Mark Sangiao head relief program in Benguet

Despite a review, ONE stood firm with the decision. Still, Zamboanga won in the eyes of the public.

And it will only make her stronger come 2022.

Jhanlo SangiaoONE-Winter-Warriors-Jhanlo-Sangiao-def-Paul-Lumihi 2021 in Review: Joshua Pacio leads PH MMA's new breed Bandwagon Wire Mixed Martial Arts ONE Championship  - philippine sports news

Jhanlo Sangiao proved that the hype entering his ONE Championship debut was justified.

Just 19 years young, Sangiao showed his all-around game in what proved to be a three-minute showcase during ONE: Winter Warriors II last December 17.

After connecting on Paul Lumihi early, Sangiao took the Indonesian down before easily moving from one dominant position after another.

The second-generation fighter eventually took the back of Lumihi, slapping a rear-naked choke to secure a dream debut.

If that is a sign of things to come, it might not take long before Sangiao gets a crack at a world championship.

Stephen LomanONE-Winter-Warriors-Stephen-Loman-def-Saadulaev 2021 in Review: Joshua Pacio leads PH MMA's new breed Bandwagon Wire Mixed Martial Arts ONE Championship  - philippine sports news

Also during ONE: Winter Warriors II, Stephen Loman proved that he belonged in ONE Championship.

The longest reigning BRAVE CF champion knocked out no. 3-ranked bantamweight Yusup Saadulaev in the very first round to put himself into contention.

Known as “The Sniper”, Loman picked his spots before eventually flooring the Russian with under a minute left in the very first round. A hammer fist for good measure secured the win for the 26-year-old Baguio-native.

With the win and compounded by Kevin Belingon’s loss in the same card, Loman will probably catapult as the no. 2 ranked contender for Bibiano Fernandes’s belt.

And his crack at another world championship will most likely come in 2022.

Jeremy PacatiwONE-Battleground-Jeremy-Pacatiw-def-Chen-Rui 2021 in Review: Joshua Pacio leads PH MMA's new breed Bandwagon Wire Mixed Martial Arts ONE Championship  - philippine sports news

Jeremy Pacatiw’s ONE debut was not as impressive as Sangiao’s and Loman’s.

But a win is still a win.

#ReadMore  Denice Zamboanga willing to go through hell to get to Angela Lee

During ONE: Battleground last July, Pacatiw was more methodical in taking a dominant unanimous decision win against China’s Chan Rui.

If there was one blip in Pacatiw’s debut, it was the third round.

Pacatiw tried to be creative in the standup, weaving wildly and throwing wild shots and take-down attempts. His attempts were easily stuffed by Chen, but the latter could not do anything to turn the bout around.

Still, it is a lesson learned for the 25-year-old as finishes reaps rewards in the world’s top martial arts organization.

Jenelyn Olsim

ONE-Battleground-Jenelyn-Olsim-def-Bi-Nguyen 2021 in Review: Joshua Pacio leads PH MMA's new breed Bandwagon Wire Mixed Martial Arts ONE Championship  - philippine sports news

Photo from ONEFC.com

It was a busy year for Jenelyn Olsim that was also a learning experience for her if she wants to be an elite athlete in ONE Championship.

Olsim started off the year by tapping Maira Mazar with a guillotine choke at ONE: Fists of Fury III in March before moving to the loaded women’s atomweight division.

But not even the shift could stop her star, clobbering Bi Nguyen at ONE: Battleground III for the unanimous decision win before stepping up in the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Grand Prix as a replacement for Itsuki Hirata.

Unfortunately, Olsim got outwrestled by Ritu “The Indian Tigress” Phogat in their semifinal showdown, losing via unanimous decision in their match at ONE: NextGen.

Knowing her flaws this early, the 24-year-old will only come back stronger in 2022.

Jeremy Miado

ONE-NextGen-Jeremy-Miado-hook-on-Miao-Li-Tao 2021 in Review: Joshua Pacio leads PH MMA's new breed Bandwagon Wire Mixed Martial Arts ONE Championship  - philippine sports news

Photo from ONEFC.com

At just 27 years old and sporting a 9-4 record entering the year, Jeremy Miado made sure to not settle.

Miado moved to Marrok Force early this year to join the Zamboanga siblings in Thailand.

#ReadMore  Eduard Folayang set for ONE: Inside The Matrix, takes on Aussie foe

And his move paid dividends as he dominated his only bout of the year, defeating Li Tao Miao during ONE: NextGen, proving that he has what it takes to go up the next level.

It won’t take long to see Miado 2.0 in action again as he is slated to face Senzo Ikeda during ONE: Heavy Hitters on January 14.

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