On Friday, 31 January, the Team Lakay representative will attempt to kick off 2020 by defending his belt against former World Champion Alex “Little Rock” Silva on home turf at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines.
Though Pacio is on a high after a stellar year that saw him climb back to the top of his division and defend the gold for the first time, he expects a huge test from his upcoming opponent from Brazil.
“He’s in an amazing team with Evolve, he’s been a champion, and he has always been a top contender, so I expect this to be really tough,” Pacio says.
“Every time he competes, he improves. He will leave you in awe when you’re watching him on the ground and his striking has been improving as well.”
Silva is coming off back-to-back second-round victories via armbar – against Stefer “The Lion” Rahardian in August, and then Peng Xue Wen in November. They were the seventh and eighth submission victories of his career, which improved his finishing ratio to an outstanding 89 percent.
Despite his ever-improving grappling, which he demonstrated with his arm-triangle choke of Rene “The Challenger” Catalan in his last match, Pacio is under no illusion that his expertise on the ground cannot match Silva’s.
It should be a different story in the striking exchanges, but the 23-year-old from Baguio City will not look past his opponent in that regard, either.
- Pacio Vs. Silva, Plus Folayang’s Return Confirmed For Manila
- Joshua Pacio Finishes Rene Catalan, Retains ONE Strawweight World Title
- Folayang Plans Striking Attack To Take Out Mujtaba
“His strength has always been his grappling, I don’t think we can say anything about it, but if it stays striking, that’s our expertise,” Pacio says.
“He has improved in his striking but we could still see some holes in it. Sometimes he gets wobbled, though, to his credit, he always recovers after getting dazed. He is a proven and tested warrior.”
With that said, “The Passion” will not rule out yet another highlight-reel conclusion in front of his home crowd, which seems to inspire him to deliver his most spectacular moments.
His last four bouts in front of the Filipino fans at the Mall Of Asia Arena have ended in sensational style – from his spinning back fist KO of Roy Doliguez to his “Passion Lock” submission of Pongsiri Mitsatit, the knockout of 2019 against Yosuke Saruta, and the submission of Catalan.
Another entry into that list would be ideal, and if the opportunity presents itself, you can bet Pacio will not hesitate to take it.
“Of course we would be looking for a finish, but it will always depend on where the fight goes,” Pacio adds.
“But, you can expect that I will do everything to get that win, whether by knockout or decision.”
Pacio’s recent run of results in his World Title bouts has been just as impressive, if not more so, than Silva’s, but he knows he cannot dwell on past glories in the face of this new challenge.
The strawweight division has been one of the most volatile in ONE Championship since its inception – no man has defended the World Title more than once – so “The Passion” is determined to come out with a performance that will put a marker down and establish him as the most dominant athlete in the history of the weight class.
“I can say I’ve been satisfied with my performances, especially against kuya Rene who is a very good fighter. I am happy I was able to execute my game plan and get those finishes,” Pacio shares.
“However, I need to be different every time. I have to do new things every time I compete. I know the rest of the division’s eyes are on me so I need to show them new things each time.”