This coming Friday, 8 November, reigning ONE Strawweight World Champion Joshua “The Passion” Pacio defends the belt against his Filipino compatriot Rene “The Challenger” Catalan at the Mall Of Asia Arena in Manila.
The two strawweight mixed martial artists will go head-to-head in the main event of ONE: MASTERS OF FATE, which will serve as the final ONE Championship event in the Philippine capital for 2019.
Ahead of this highly anticipated clash, we take a look back at the history of the ONE Strawweight World Title.
Muay Thai World Champion Crowned The First Strawweight King
In May 2015, the showdown for the inaugural ONE Strawweight World Title took place at ONE: WARRIOR’S QUEST in Singapore.
The two warriors went back-and-forth for five grueling rounds, with the Singapore-based Thai getting the better of his adversary both in the stand-up exchanges and on the ground.
An inadvertent shot grazed Doliguez’s eye, which brought the action to a halt with 91 seconds remaining in the fifth and final stanza.
The bout went to the judges’ scorecards, and all three judges awarded the unanimous decision — and the ONE Strawweight World Title — to Dejdamrong.
“Nobita” Wins The Strawweight Gold In Bangkok
Following a successful maiden title defense against Brazil’s Yago Bryan, Dejdamrong returned home to Bangkok, Thailand to defend his crown against Shooto World Champion Yoshitaka “Nobita” Naito at ONE: KINGDOM OF CHAMPIONS in May 2016.
Unfortunately for the Thai, it was not the homecoming he was expecting.
The undefeated Japanese grappler exchanged strikes with Dejdamrong in the opening period, but he started hitting his takedowns as the bout raged on.
Naito kept working towards favorable positions, and he threatened his rival with punches and submission attempts.
With a minute to spare in the fourth round, he finally submitted his man via rear-naked choke to claim the gold.
A BJJ World Champion Becomes The Strawweight King
Naito successfully defended his belt against then-undefeated challenger Pacio at ONE: STATE OF WARRIORS in October 2016, as he was able to force the Team Lakay prodigy to tap out via rear-naked choke in the third round.
Just over a year later, “Nobita” returned to the Thai capital and crossed paths with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Champion Alex “Little Rock” Silva — Dejdamrong’s Evolve teammate — at ONE: WARRIORS OF THE WORLD in December 2017.
It was expected to be a battle among elite grapplers, but Silva stuffed many of his opponent’s takedowns and peppered him with strikes throughout much of the contest.
The Japanese combatant was more effective with his grappling late in the match-up, but “Little Rock” was never truly threatened.
After five rounds, the judges unanimously scored the contest in favor of Silva and awarded him with the ONE Strawweight World Title belt.
A Reversal Of Fortunes
For 2018, the ONE Strawweight World Title picture involved three men, and each athlete had a turn holding the crown.
Silva made his first defense against Naito in a main-event rematch at ONE: GRIT & GLORY in May 2018.
This time, “Nobita” entered Jakarta, Indonesia with a better game plan. He displayed more fluid movement, constantly remained in the Brazilian’s face, and used his grappling expertise to take back the gold via split decision.
Naito’s second reign was short-lived, however.
“The Passion” Makes History Of His Own
After racking up three sensational highlight-reel finishes, including an innovative submission victory where he premiered “The Passion Lock,” Pacio was granted a rematch against Naito at ONE: CONQUEST OF HEROES.
The September 2018 clash in Jakarta saw the Filipino unveil new dimensions to his already captivating skill set.
Pacio battered his Japanese rival with kicks to the legs and body, sprawled away from many of his takedown attempts, and even showed brilliant ground awareness when “Nobita” was able to bring him to the mat.
The Filipino turned up his striking in the championship rounds, which sealed him the unanimous decision victory and gave him the distinction of being the youngest ONE Strawweight World Champion in history at age 22.
A New Rivalry Is Born
Like in 2018, this year has seen the gold seesaw between rivals.
It was a competitive back-and-forth affair, but the Japanese star wrestled the belt away from him via split decision.
However, a rematch was set for the co-main event of ONE: ROOTS OF HONOR in Manila later in April to get a more definitive conclusion.
That conclusion happened when Pacio scored a highlight-reel knockout. Halfway into the fourth round, the local hero uncorked a kick, but instead of his shin delivering the final blow, his knee smacked Saruta on the temple and immediately shut his lights off.
Just like that, the ONE Strawweight World Title belt was back around Pacio’s waist.
The Future Is Now
On 8 November, Pacio defends his belt against Catalan at ONE: MASTERS OF FATE in the Philippine capital.
The grizzled veteran has what it takes to knock off his young rival and add the belt to his trophy case. He is riding a six-bout win streak, with half of those victories coming via submission or technical knockout.
If Catalan defeats Pacio, he will continue his run as the hottest strawweight currently in The Home Of Martial Arts. But if “The Passion” successfully defends the gold, it will undoubtedly confirm that he is indeed the best strawweight on the planet.