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 22 September.
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 left with his hand raised and the world title on his shoulder after earning the victory on all three of the judges’ scorecards.
“Yoshitaka Naito is a very patient inside the cage,” Pacio said after 25-minute bout. “Plus, he can absorb some hard shots without slowing down. He’s really hard to go against because he keeps moving forward, no matter what you throw at him.”
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.
“I expected for him to be able to take my hardest shots,” Pacio explained. “If you look back at his match with Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke, he absorbed a lot of kicks and punches but he kept powering forward, so I expected that he’d be able to do the same against me.”
“I hurt him with a kick to the body in the first round and while it did have him on the defensive for a bit, he’s really strong and he kept pushing for the takedowns. I knew he could take those hard shots.” he added.
While Pacio did impose his will on standup department, it was his ground defense that ultimately may have secured him the championship.
Pacio did a good job of defending takedowns in the early rounds, but Naito eventually managed to take the Filipino down. From there however, Pacio managed to stifle any attempts at offense that Naito attempted.
“Yes, he did manage to take me down, but I kept him from passing my guard and gaining any positional advantage,” he elaborated. “Even if he scored the takedown, if he couldn’t pass guard or move into a better and more advantageous position, he wouldn’t be able to score any points because he was just stuck in guard.”
And even on his back, Pacio made sure to stay busy by punishing Naito with strikes from the bottom position.
“While on top, he was punching me a bit, but I was answering back with some elbows of my own, so I believe it was a close fight on the ground. Standing up, Naito was able to tag me a few times, so it shows that he really worked on his striking as well.”
That night however, 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.
“I’m so happy, I can’t explain what I’m feeling right now,” and elated Pacio admitted. “I did not know whether I was going cry or laugh when they announced the decision after the bout. It was an unexplainable feeling.”