Filipino strawweight star Joshua “The Passion” Pacio produced a mature performance that belied his 22 years to capture the ONE Strawweight World Title at ONE: CONQUEST OF HEROES in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Pacio defeated defending champion Yoshitaka “Nobita” Naito over five gripping rounds to become the latest World Champion from Team Lakay – the Baguio City gym that has propelled ONE Championship superstars Eduard Folayang, Honorio Banario, Geje Eustaquio, and Kevin Belingon to ONE World Titles.
Pacio’s performance on Saturday, 22 September was a triumph of game planning, preparation and improvement, as he showed he had evolved significantly since he lost to Naito at ONE: STATE OF WARRIORS two years ago.
The 2018 version of “The Passion” arrived at the Jakarta Convention Center with a vastly-improved grappling game, and he repeatedly stuffed Naito’s takedown attempts throughout the first two rounds.
The Filipino challenger opened up with a lower-than-usual stance and kept Naito at bay while scoring with solid punches and a thumping kick to the body that briefly forced the champion to back away.
There was even a submission attempt, as Pacio tried to repeat his highlight-reel “Passion Lock” submission, but the champion had the move well scouted and avoided a first-round submission defeat.
Pacio remained on top of proceedings throughout the second frame, scoring with a spectacular head kick and stuffing Naito’s repeated takedown attempts.
Once again, the Filipino looked the more dangerous grappler as he turned a Naito takedown attempt into a rear-naked choke opportunity after a superb reversal.
After being dominated throughout the opening two rounds, Naito’s persistence finally started to pay off in the third as he landed his first significant takedown of the contest.
Despite putting Pacio on his back, it was the Filipino who was more active, using a front choke attempt to return to his feet. Only in the final seconds of the round did Naito have any real offensive success as he postured up from the guard and landed a flurry of ground strikes.
The pattern of the bout was set, with Pacio dominating the stand-up exchanges on the feet, while also nullifying the defending champion on the mat.
Pacio’s improvement meant Naito’s offence was mostly stopped at the source, with the challenger looking relatively untroubled throughout the championship rounds – defending smartly from his back and staying active throughout.
All three judges agreed Pacio’s performance over the 25-minute duration was enough to hand Naito only the second loss of his career and improve his record to 13-2 overall.
Immediately after his win, Pacio dedicated his victory to the people of the Philippines affected by Typhoon Mangkhut, which has devastated his homeland and cost dozens of lives this week.
“Last week we had a typhoon hit Baguio and Benguet,” he told the crowd in the Jakarta Convention Center.
“A lot of places have been struck by this typhoon, and some people are still missing. 50 to 60 plus are still dead, and they’re still finding missing people. This fight is for all of them.”
“The Passion Era” is now underway in the ONE strawweight division. With a host of talented contenders jockeying for position, Pacio will have no shortage of challengers for his World Title in the months ahead.