It was not the best performance of his career, but ONE Strawweight World Champion Yoshitaka “Nobita” Naito of Chiba, Japan, would gladly take the win, having survived a spirited performance from the young Joshua Pacio of Baguio City, Philippines.
Naito and Pacio engaged in a scheduled five-round ONE Strawweight World Championship contest in the main event of ONE: STATE OF WARRIORS, which took place 7 October at the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium in Yangon, Myanmar.
For three intense rounds however, it seemed as if the champion had met his match. Surprisingly, the 20-year-old Pacio took the fight straight to Naito, firing off combinations from his world-class wushu sanshou skillset.
Team Lakay had made numerous improvements to their overall grappling game recently, and it certainly showed with Pacio’s performance as he was able to stuff multiple takedown attempts by Naito.
Pacio dominated striking exchanges, causing visible damage to Naito’s face as the bout wore on. When Naito was able to successfully take Pacio down, however, the young gun did well in striking from guard. He even did more damage than Naito was able to do in a dominant position. Pacio also executed escapes extremely well, impressing fans and observers at cageside.
In round two, Pacio dropped Naito with a solid right hand, continuing to pour on the punishment as Naito became desperate and a sense of urgency filled his expression. Struggling to keep up with Pacio’s striking, Naito knew he had to somehow get Pacio to the ground more often and work on a submission.
Towards the end of the third round, Naito came out of nowhere and was able to take Pacio down, secure his back, and lock in a rear naked choke to force the tap.
It was a come-from-behind win for Naito in the literal and the figurative sense, narrowly escaping defeat by pulling a submission out of his back pocket. With the victory, Naito will enjoy a well-deserved rest after a rough bout, and maintains a perfect 12-0 record.
“Definitely the happiest and the best fight ever. This is definitely my best fight. I just did what I came to do. I showed Myanmar what I can do, all my skills, and I won,” stated Naito in the post-fight interview inside the cage.
Despite the loss, Pacio impressed with his performance and is young enough to learn from this experience. He suffers the first defeat of his burgeoning 8-1 career.