THERE will be no holidays for Team Lakay champion Joshua Pacio.
After snatching the strawweight world title in One Championship against Yoshitaka Naito in September, Pacio will kick off 2019 as he headline’s Asia’s largest MMA promotions at the Istora Senayan in Jakarta, Indonesia.
The Team Lakay champion will make his first world title defense in the main event of ONE: Eternal Glory on January 19, against the last man to defeat him — Japan’s Hayato Suzuki (20-1-2).
The first time these two warriors met was at ONE: Kings and Conquerors in August 2017.
In Suzuki’s promotional debut, he did not disappoint. He quickly took Pacio to the ground and submitted him via rear-naked choke in the first round.
Although the then-unbeaten Japanese grappler earned the victory that night, it was his opponent who reached the highest heights in the next year and a half.
That loss motivated Pacio to work extensively on his ground game with his Team Lakay stablemates in Baguio City, Philippines.
The 22-year-old then claimed three straight stoppage victories to earn the right to challenge Naito – the only other man to ever defeat him – in a rematch for the strawweight world title at ONE: Conquest of Heroes.
In front of a capacity crowd at the Jakarta Convention Center, Pacio outworked the division’s king to win a five-round affair via unanimous decision and capture the strawweight crown.
Suzuki, however, slipped in his very next bout at ONE: Legends of the World in November. Alex Silva outwitted the overeager warrior from Japan’s Ibaraki Prefecture and submitted him via armbar just moments into the contest.
That sole career blemish gave the Japanese athlete nightmares for weeks, and he vowed to bounce back.
The 32-year-old lived up to that promise, as he submitted his next three opponents via rear-naked choke.
Now, he will challenge Pacio for the belt and attempt to prove his previous victory was no fluke. (Roderick Osis)