One of the biggest rematches in ONE Championship history will finally go down this Saturday, 22 September, at the Jakarta Convention Center in Indonesia.
At ONE: CONQUEST OF HEROES, two-time ONE Strawweight World Champion Yoshitaka “Nobita” Naito (13-1) will defend the belt against Filipino sensation Joshua “The Passion” Pacio (12-2) in the main event.
The Japanese kingpin submitted Pacio after an exciting battle the last time they squared off nearly two years ago, and with each man advancing by leaps and bounds since then, fans should expect to see one of the division’s best bouts yet.
The First Meeting
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In October 2016, these two warriors met for the first time at ONE: STATE OF WARRIORS in Yangon, Myanmar.
Pacio stuffed most of his rival’s takedowns and utilized his wushu-based striking to great success in the opening two stanzas, and held the upper hand for much of the contest. However, Naito would not be denied, and he staged a fantastic comeback.
The Japanese champion shot for a single-leg takedown against the cage, trapped the Team Lakay standout’s left leg, and then brilliantly spun around him to secure back mount. He locked in the rear-naked choke, applied a body triangle, and forced the tap at the 1:33 mark of round three.
The Road To The Rematch
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Since his victory over “The Passion,” Naito has lost and regained the gold.
The Brazilian used his takedown defense to keep the match upright, where he lit up “Nobita” with his fierce striking. The man from Matsudo, Japan, was effective with his grappling in the final stanza, but it was too little, too late, and he lost the title via unanimous decision.
Although Naito admits he was surprised by Silva’s striking, he was determined to bounce back and reclaim the ONE Strawweight World Championship in their rematch at ONE: GRIT & GLORY in Jakarta in May.
This time around, he dictated the pace, showed more aggression, and was relentless in his pursuit for the takedown. “Nobita” was much more effective in their second encounter, and earned a split decision victory to get the belt back.
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Pacio has been the more active competitor since their meeting.
Following a split decision victory over the division’s inaugural titleholder Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke in March 2017, he has been on fire.
He knocked out Roy Doliguez with a beautiful spinning back fist last November, followed that up with a first-round rear-naked choke submission of Lan Ming Qiang in January, and then tapped out unbeaten Muay Thai specialist Pongsiri “The Smiling Assassin” Mitsatit with his brilliant “Passion Lock” in July.
Grappling may have been Pacio’s weakness in his first encounter with Naito, but he has slowly turned it into an area of strength.
The Route To Victory
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Posted by ONE Championship on Sunday, September 16, 2018
Naito acknowledges “The Passion” has dramatically improved since their first bout, but the 34-year-old still believes he has the edge in the grappling department.
“Since my opponent lost the last time around, he will bring his hunger and intensity. I understand the position he is in,” Naito explains.
“Nevertheless, I still think that I have the advantage once the fight hits the ground, where I can impose my strength.”
While “Nobita” will look to deploy his grappling, he also believes his relentless pace will help separate him from “The Passion.”
“My biggest weapon is tenacity, and it has been reinforced through suffering loss for the first time in my career.”
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Posted by ONE Championship on Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Pacio admits he was hesitant to go to the ground with the Japanese warrior in their October 2016 tilt. However, he used that as a learning experience, and a launchpad to improve in all areas of mixed martial arts – especially his wrestling and submissions.
Now, with more confidence, he will be fearless in the main-event rematch.
“My striking is so much better now, and my grappling is at a very high level,” he says. “I am intent on mixing it up in this rematch, and giving him different looks.”
While Naito is determined to use his determination to set a high pace and guide him to victory, the Filipino will take a different approach in his quest to claim the gold.
“I have a lot more patience now, and I will let the fight unfold instead of forcing the issue,” he says.
Michael Schiavello, ONE Championship Lead Commentator
I feel Naito is the most underrated World Champion in ONE. He would admit that himself, and he likes to come in as the underdog even though he is the champ with a near-perfect record.
The chance to see how “Nobita” has evolved since his last match intrigues me. He is like a nutty professor in a laboratory working out secret formulas to win. He has the advantage as champion, which is a mental and emotional advantage, and he has maturity over Pacio.
Pacio has momentum, but is he too green yet for the strap? Has he bitten off more than he can chew taking this rematch now? These questions will be answered.
I think the key to Pacio winning is not on the ground, but on the feet. Going to the ground with “Nobita” could be detrimental. I’d keep it standing and out-work “Nobita,” especially with the hands.
Mitch Chilson, Broadcast Commentator & Former ONE Athlete
In this war of attrition, you will see the finest of both mixed martial artists.
Naito was able to do what he does best in their first match – control the grappling exchanges and look for the choke. Naito has a heavy top game with relentless pressure, and he has improved his striking, but his best skills are on the ground. To win, he will need to be able to control Pacio and get him to the ground.
Pacio looked good in the first two rounds when they first met. He was able to stop takedowns and out-strike the champion. He made one small mistake, and Naito showed the experience of a veteran and capitalized on it.
If he wants to dethrone the king in Jakarta, he will need to stop that single-leg takedown of Naito. If he can stop the takedown and work that beautiful Lakay-style wushu, Baguio could have another title coming home.