Joshua Pacio delivered a highlight-reel finish for the ages.
Three minutes into the opening round, Pacio secured the back mount. He went for a rear-naked choke, but after that failed, he locked in a modified kimura, foring the previously-unbeaten Thai hero to tap out.
A week on from the event, the Filipino explains how he came up with his innovative submission, why he feels more prepared for another ONE Strawweight World Title shot, and much more.
ONE Championship: Pongsiri Mitsatit came into the bout with an unblemished record and a high finishing rate. Heading into the match-up, what were you most concerned about with his skills?
Joshua Pacio: His Muay Thai was very good, and I was always watchful of his knees. Those are very sharp and lightning quick. But wushu is also an incredible martial art, and I think we can hang with the best. Team Lakay is an excellent representation of the art of wushu, and I am proud to showcase this amazing discipline to all the fans.
I was not taking Pongsiri lightly, because I knew he was very strong and powerful. At this level, you can never underestimate any opponent. But my team and my coach had prepared me well for his strengths, and we were ready to exploit his weakness, which was his wrestling. So we worked on my takedowns and my grappling, and luckily, I got the win.
ONE: What was your game plan?
JP: We had prepared for his leg kicks by practicing straight punches to the body, or to the head. We also tried to catch the leg kick and drive the single-leg home, which is what I ended up doing in the fight.
When Pongsiri threw that leg kick, I had the presence of mind to catch it. I tried the takedown, but he was still standing, so I lifted him up and slammed him to the mat. I knew once he had his back to the canvas, he was not going to like it. Taking mount from that position was quick, and I took the first opening that popped up.
From there, it was all a matter of looking for the right pathway to victory. I used ground-and-pound to soften him up, and then when he gave up his back, I was fishing for the rear-naked choke. But then, another submission came up — one that we had been practicing in training camp.
ONE: Your “Passion Lock” was a modified kimura from the back mount. How did you come up with such an unorthodox way to finish?
JP: We played around with the idea of other submissions from the back. The rear-naked choke is obvious, but there had to be some other way to finish from that position. At Team Lakay, we drill many different scenarios when we train our grappling. This is one we came up with in our constant pursuit of knowledge.
I first tried this technique on Danny (Kingad), but that guy is extremely strong and very tough, and it was not as effective. Then I tried it on Geje (Eustaquio), and that is when I was able to execute it correctly.
I pulled it off only once, but I had a good feel for it. Sometimes, the rear-naked choke is hard to execute against an opponent with good defense, so we are constantly looking for other options.
ONE: When you had the left arm behind his back, there was a moment when you paused before applying more pressure. What was going through your mind at the time?
JP: By the time I had his arm behind his back, I knew it was over. It was already very deep, but Pongsiri was incredibly tough. I quickly realized he was not going to tap, so I had no choice but to crank it completely. That is when he tapped.
I was concerned for his shoulder after, which is why I ran to check on him. You never want to see an opponent hurt. Victory is important, but we are martial artists – not just fighters. We have a responsibility. We only do what is necessary for victory.
ONE: The strawweight division is filled with talent. Is there anybody you want to face next?
JP: I have always been willing to face whoever ONE Championship puts in front of me. I never really ask to fight anyone. As a martial artist, I will take on everyone in my division. It is the thrill of the challenge that excites me, and my goal is to test my skills against the very best.
My job is to train to my fullest, reach my potential, and do what it takes to win. After every bout, I go back to training the next day to try to improve every aspect of my game.
ONE: Do you feel ready for a rematch with ONE Strawweight World Champion Yoshitaka Naito, or a battle with former titleholder Alex Silva?
JP: If I am given the chance to compete for the ONE Strawweight World Championship again, I will take it without hesitation. I feel I am ready for another title shot. I have improved so much since the first time I fought Naito.
I think my skills are far better now than they were back then. It is a different Joshua Pacio you are seeing now. Plus, it is another chance to give honor to the Philippines, and bring home another world title.
As for Alex Silva, he is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, so obviously it is a very dangerous match-up. It is a classic striker versus grappler showdown. But for me, I think I am very well-rounded. I am not just a striker; I have good grappling skills too, and my defense is solid.
I am constantly improving both my wrestling and jiu-jitsu, but this is mixed martial arts. It is not just pure jiu-jitsu, and I think I bring a few things to the table that will steer me towards victory. Anything can happen.