It was a well-time roundhouse kick that propelled Joshua Pacio back to his position as top strawweight of ONE championship.
The spectacular knockout happened last April 12 during the co-main event of ONE: Roots of Honor held at the Mall of Asia Arena where Pacio scored the fourth-round knockout against reigning titleholder Yosuke “The Ninja” Saruta in a rematch.
It will be recalled that “The Passion” lost the title to Saruta via razor-thin split decision last January.
The end came when Pacio connected a head kick that turned out to be knee shot to the head which sent his Japanese adversary to the canvas and forcing the referee to immediately jump in and wave off the contest at 2:43 of round four.
Pacio said that he planned to be aggressive going into the fight and was looking to make use the said strike move. “Even in the first fight, Yosuke was vulnerable to the roundhouse kick. He was constantly leaving himself wide open for it, but I was moving backward, and a lot of the power that came with that kick was lost” said Pacio in a post-fight interview with ONE. “In this rematch, I made it a point to be more aggressive and not lay back and counter so much. The team and I didn’t want to leave this one at the hands of the judges again. We trained for the finish and we got it.”
The match actually started with fast-paced action in the first with Pacio unloading his patented Team Lakay strikes while Saruta was looking to go for the takedowns. Pacio charged at every opportunity he could find and Saruta countered by successfully sending Pacio to the mat twice.
Action slowed down a bit in the next two round as the Japanese showed willingness to stand and engage Pacio on their feet, resulting in each fighter becoming patient and find the opening for a perfect strike.
The action picked up again in the third with Saruta coming up with various attacks but concentrating on takedowns that had Pacio wary throughout the round. Pacio was still passive, looking for the right opening to fire a shot. He, however, still managed to fire off stinging leg kicks and counter punches any time the Japanese champ moved forward.
“We wanted to mix it up a little more in this fight, so I let loose a bit and tried to connect on some spinning back kicks. After throwing a series of those that didn’t connect, I wanted to focus on timing the roundhouse kick for when he came in with the overhand right”, Pacio said.
His patience paid off in the fourth as that perfect timing came midway in the round when both fighters simultaneously attempted their shots.
Just as Saruta moved forward in uncorking an overhand right, the 23-year-old Team Lakay star was about to unleash a round house kick to the head.
The clash resulted to Pacio’s knee connecting to Saruta’s temple, sending him crashing to the canvass face first.
“He was leaving himself open every time he threw the overhand right. So in round four, when he came in with it, I just timed the kick perfectly. I felt the power and knew he had taken it. I was ready to follow up with a few more punches, but I saw he fell face-first into the canvas. At that moment, I knew it was over”, Pacio ended to perfectly describe what went on during the fight.
Pacio improved his MMA career record to 17-3-0 to mark the start of his second reign in the strawweight division while giving Saruta his 9th loss against 19 wins and 3 draws.
Pacio plans to take on all comers and defend his throne against anybody ONE lines up to challenge for the crown, including compatriot Rene Catalan.
The pursuit of excellence with such mentality was not lost on his coach, either.
Mark Sangiao opined that Pacio could follow the footsteps of Martin Nguyen, who at one time, held and challenged belts of different weight classes.
“With his accomplishments at a young age plus his professionalism, I can say that he is one of the World Champions who will be able to hold on to his World Title for a very long time”, said Sangiao in a ONE interview. “Given that Joshua is currently at the prime age of a martial artist, what happens next in his career would be up to his discipline and decision-making. Give him another two to three years in his current division, and he may follow the steps of Martin Nguyen where he can go up a weight class”, he ended
By: ARMANDO BOLISLIS
Photo by ONE Championship