However, an unfortunate injury forced Suzuki out of the main event. He was quickly replaced by his countryman Yosuke “Tobizaru” Saruta (18-8-3), who will now challenge the Team Lakay prodigy for the gold.
Throw🔙: Joshua Pacio's ground game overpowered fellow Filipino Rabin Catalan!Jakarta | 19 January | 6:00PM | LIVE and FREE on the ONE Super App: http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast | Tickets: http://bit.ly/oneglory19
Posted by ONE Championship on Friday, January 4, 2019
Despite the switch, Pacio is determined to leave the Istora Senayan in Jakarta, Indonesia with the belt.
“I’m coming into this fight, as usual, in the best shape of my life,” the 22-year-old says.
“The way I fight, my style is very fast-paced with constant movement. To be able to maintain my pace, I have to be in great physical condition. We have worked extensively on my conditioning, and I’m prepared for a five-round war.
“Of course, we still have a solid game plan in place, and that’s going to be a huge key to victory. I have the best team behind me and the best coach.
“As long as we put our heads together, and I follow my coach’s instructions, I’m confident I can retain the title and bring home another golden strap to Baguio City.”
Is there any submission Joshua Pacio can't do?Jakarta | 19 January | 6:00PM | LIVE and FREE on the ONE Super App: http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast | Tickets: http://bit.ly/oneglory19
Posted by ONE Championship on Saturday, December 29, 2018
Saruta is not just another opponent for Pacio, however.
The 31-year-old has been in the game much longer than the Filipino, so he owns a significant advantage in overall experience.
He kicked off his professional mixed martial arts career in January 2008 with the Shooto promotion and proceeded to make a name for himself in the Japanese scene.
In October 2017, “Tobizaru” reached the organization’s pinnacle when he knocked out Ryuto Sawada to claim the Shooto Strawweight World Championship.
Furthermore, the Japanese dynamo made a huge statement in his ONE Championship debut last month by defeating former titleholder Alex “Little Rock” Silva via unanimous decision.
Mark your calendars! Joshua Pacio's first strawweight World Title defense goes down in less than a month 🗓Jakarta | 19 January | 6:00PM | LIVE and FREE on the ONE Super App: http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast | Tickets: http://bit.ly/oneglory19
Posted by ONE Championship on Friday, December 21, 2018
In that match-up, Saruta displayed his explosive striking and strong grappling against a third-degree Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt.
Pacio knows the extraordinary talent his Tokyo-based rival possesses, and he believes this will be the most challenging battle of his five-year career.
“I think Saruta’s biggest strength is his grappling, although he really has good striking skills. He proved that in his last bout against Silva,” the Filipino says.
“He is a very well-rounded athlete. I am preparing for the toughest opponent of my career. This is how I always train.
“There’s no use in underestimating my opponents. I honestly don’t think Saruta has any glaring weaknesses, and that’s why I’m getting myself ready for a grueling bout.”
How strong is Joshua Pacio?! 😱Jakarta | 19 January | 6:00PM | LIVE and FREE on the ONE Super App: http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast | Tickets: http://bit.ly/oneglory19
Posted by ONE Championship on Saturday, December 8, 2018
Pacio’s rise to the top of the promotion’s strawweight division has been well-documented.
Since joining The Home Of Martial Arts in April 2016, he has constantly entertained the masses with exciting performances featuring his trademark wushu striking and constantly-improving grappling skills.
In fact, a deeper look into the Baguio City resident’s history proves he is a bonafide finisher. Of his 13 victories, four come via knockout and another seven come via submission.
Although “The Passion” has earned a sterling reputation for highlight-reel stoppage victories, he refuses to predict the outcome of his next match.
“I see myself winning, and my hand getting raised at the end of the night. But that is as much as I am going to say,” he offers.
“I don’t like predicting how fights will end because, in this game, anything can happen. All I can say is that I’m going to follow our game plan strictly because I know, in the end, it’s what will bring victory.
“Whether that victory comes by knockout, submission, or decision, I will let the fight dictate that. We’ll see how it goes.”
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Posted by ONE Championship on Tuesday, December 11, 2018
The Filipino martial arts prodigy had an incredible 2018.
He quickly tapped out Lan Ming Qiang via rear-naked choke last January, and then he forced Pongsiri Mitsatit to quit with his innovative “Passion Lock” in July. The latter was so impressive, it earned “ONE Championship’s Submission Of The Year 2018.”
Pacio capped off the year by dethroning former titleholder Yoshitaka “Nobita” Naito in a rematch via unanimous decision to claim the ONE Strawweight World Title this past September.
With every bout, the Team Lakay stalwart unveils a new facet of his game and continually showcases his improvements.
He will look to do that against “the toughest opponent” of his career in two weeks’ time and try to get 2019 off to a perfect start.