Rising Filipino mixed martial arts superstar Joshua “The Passion” Pacio stakes his ONE Championship Strawweight World Championship belt against seasoned Japanese fighter Yosuke Saruta in the upcoming “Eternal Glory” fightcard, which will air live on ABS-CBN S+A and S+A HD on Jan. 19 at 11 p.m. straight from Jakarta, Indonesia.
After his breakthrough performance in 2018 when he snatched the crown from former champion Yoshitaka Naito, Pacio (13-2, 11 Submissions) aims to prove he is the real deal in his first title defense. Analysts believe the 22-year-old submission artist from the legendary Team Lakay will still be tough to handle for Saruta (18-8)—the older and more experienced fighter between the two—especially with Pacio’s improved striking game.
“This version of Joshua Pacio could be the best yet. Based from what we saw during his fight with Yoshitaka Naito, Pacio has improved tremendously in terms of grappling defense and positioning, as has the rest of Team Lakay. At just 22 years old, Pacio has evolved into one of Team Lakay’s most complete fighters, mixing his elite-level striking with a continuously-improving grappling base that, as we’ve seen in the past, can hang with the best of the best in the division,” shared longtime ABS-CBN Sports MMA writer and section editor Santino Honasan.
Fellow MMA writer and analyst Nissi Icasiano agrees with Honasan’s thoughts, saying, “Pacio finally tasted gold last September, defeating Yoshitaka Naito in their rematch in convincing fashion. While it’s easy to point at Pacio’s versatile and exquisite skill set that steered him to a title victory, people tend to overlook the championship experience that he gained from the match-up against Naito, making him a newly-sharpened katana.”
Having followed the career of “The Passion” since the young star’s entry to the world of ONE Championship, both believe that Pacio can subdue the Japanese challenger and successfully defend his crown.
“Pacio will be facing a tough Japanese contender who immediately made a name for himself in ONE Championship by beating a former champion in Alex Silva last December. I believe that Pacio’s all-around game is at a different level now. The way he’s able to mix up his striking with his grapping is largely what has made him a champion today, and I think it’s what will get him through this first world title defense as well. But Saruta’s used to going the distance with his wins via decision so endurance and conditioning will be a major factor,” Honasan said.
“Pacio could tear a page off his game plan against Naito, who is virtually identical in terms of skill set to Saruta. Pacio should maintain his striking superiority for the majority of the bout while while exhibiting solid takedown and grappling defense,” Icasiano said for his part.
The card, which is ONE Championship’s first offering for 2019, promises to be a blockbuster as ONE chairman Chatri Sidyodtong claimed on his personal Twitter. Apart from Pacio, Filipinos will also be cheering for stablemate Edward Kelly (11-5, 5 KOs), who is in the undercard with a rematch with Singaporean Christian Lee (10-3, 6 KOs), whom Kelly beat last September.
Will Pacio be able to capture and subdue Saruta using his famed “Passion Lock” submission? Don’t miss his first world title defense in ONE Championship’s “Eternal Glory” fightcard which will air on S+A on January 19 at 11 pm LIVE from Jakarta, Indonesia.
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