Reigning ONE Strawweight World Champion Joshua “The Passion” Pacio of the Philippines has come a very long way since making his ONE Championship debut in 2016. The 22-year-old is at the top of his division, dominating a shark tank filled with hungry challengers.
Although Pacio has overcome all the stiff challenges that have been thrown at him, he faces a new hurdle at ONE: ETERNAL GLORY when he takes on Yosuke Saruta. The two strawweights throw down on 19 January in the headline bout at the Istora Senayan in Jakarta, Indonesia. It’s expected to be an early contender for Bout of the Year.
Pacio, who trains at the famed Team Lakay in Baguio City, Philippines, is a wushu practitioner with solid standup. Although he does have great grappling chops to add to his overall skills, “The Passion” is primarily a striker. Perhaps his best asset is the team behind him, led by coach Mark Sangiao, who conjures up incredible game plans for his wards.
Saruta, on the other hand, is a veteran in the Asian martial arts scene and is himself a tremendous striker. In addition, he’s also a terrific wrestler, something that Pacio will have to find a way to deal with.
Nicknamed “Tobizaru No.2”, what separates Saruta from other opponents Pacio has faced is that the Japanese athlete has some pretty heavy hands. He should pose some interesting stylistic problems for Pacio, who has never had to face an equally talented striker as he is.
Saruta made his ONE Championship debut just this past 7 December at ONE: DESTINY OF CHAMPIONS. The 31-year-old shocked former World Champion Alex Silva, winning via three-round unanimous decision. The performance earned him a shot at the title and a crack at Pacio to boot.
The ONE strawweight division has been a recently unstable one, with the title changing hands between Pacio, Silva, and former champion Yoshitaka Naito multiple times over the past two years. They say you’re never truly the champion unless you’ve defended your belt.
If Pacio can defeat Saruta, he will have made a successful first title defense, further legitimizing his claim as the rightful king of the division.