“Ito palang yung beginning”
It took two tries, but finally, Filipino strawweight star Joshua “The Passion” Pacio is now the ONE Strawweight World Champion.
The 22-year old Team Lakay stalwart used his superior striking and much-improved grappling defense to outpoint erstwhile champion Yoshitaka “Nobita” Naito of Japan by unanimous decision in the main event of ONE: Conquest of Heroes at the Jakarta Convention Center in Jakarta, Indonesia last Saturday.
It was the perfect sequel to their 2016 encounter, as Pacio and Naito brought out the best in each other for an action-packed five-round affair.
At the end, it was Pacio who had his hand raised and the world title on his shoulder after earning the victory on all three of the judges’ scorecards.
“Yung round three, medyo nag-aalalay ako kasi nararamdaman ko yung lakas niya, so na-takedown ako pero pinipigilan [ko siya] mag-pass ng guard,” Pacio said after 25-minute bout. “Yun nga, sinasabi ni coach [Mark Sangiao] never give your back kahit na dun lang ako sa ground, hindi ko siya pinapa-pass ng guard ko, dun lang siya.”
And while it was something that Pacio had to deal with, Naito’s toughness was not an unexpected aspect of the Japanese star’s game.
“Yun ang ine-expect ko sa laban na ‘to, kahit bigyan ko siya ng malakas, kasi kay Dejdamrong [Sor Amnuaysirichoke] nga eh, andami niyang tinanggap na sipa, na suntok pero keep moving forward parin siya, so inexpect ko talaga na ganun,” he added.
“Natamaan ko siya sa first round sa tiyan kaya medyo nag-alalay siya, pero malakas pa rin siya at pinipili pa rin niya yung takedowns so alam ko na kaya niya tumanggap.”
While Pacio did impose his will in the stand-up department, it was his ground defense that ultimately secured him the championship.
Pacio did a good job of defending takedowns in the early rounds, but Naito eventually managed to bring the Filipino down. From there, however, Pacio managed to stifle any attempts at offense that Naito attempted.
“Kahit naka-takedown siya, kung hindi siya maka-pass ng guard or hindi siya maka-move sa better position, walang points, so dun kampante ko dahil nasa guard lang siya,” recanted Pacio. “Oo, sumusuntok-suntok siya pero nakaka-bawi ako with elbows so sa tingin ko, dikit dun sa ground. Sa standing, nagulat ako nakaka-tama din siya, nag-level up talaga yung striking niya.
“Yung three points na yun is yung calf, then yun solar plexus then yung panga. So yun yung tinatamaan ko, yung calf niya, yung solar plexus hindi ko natamaan mismo yung solar plexus kasi galaw siya ng galaw at tinatarget ko din yung panga niya, pero yung calf kick, yun talaga inimplement ko. “
And even on his back, Pacio made sure to stay busy by punishing Naito with strikes from the bottom position.
That night definitely belonged to Pacio, who becomes the third member of Team Lakay to become a ONE World Champion in 2018, joining reigning ONE Interim Bantamweight World Champion Kevin Belingon and reigning ONE Flyweight World Champion Geje Eustaquio.
But now, he has to be ready for the next challenger.
“I think sinabi ni boss Chatri [Sityodtong] na may rubber match sila ni [Alex] Silva this coming November, so sa tingin ko lang is kung sinong mananalo dun,” he disclosed.
“Pero kung anong sasabihin ni sir Chatri, kailangan laging handa.”
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