ONE Championship lead commentator and Fox Sports presenter, Steve Dawson, breaks down this blockbuster bout. The fate of the ONE Strawweight World Championship potentially hangs in the balance.
Both men will be eyeing a world title fight later this year in the ONE Championship strawweight division, but the rarity is that both men have already fought the current champion.
Dejdamrong — at the time unbeaten in six fights — met Yoshitaka Naito in defense of his ONE Strawweight World Championship belt, also at the Impact Arena, last May. In his second fight as champion, the Thai lost out to the Japanese in a fight that ebbed and flowed before a rear-naked choke stopped proceedings four minutes into the fourth round.
Pacio, on the other hand, at the time unbeaten in eight fights, met in October last year. It was Naito’s first defense, and the champion saw the Filipino off with a third-round choke.
Now the former champion and challenger meet each other, and it’s hard to see how the winner won’t get another shot at Naito’s title.
Dejdamrong’s title glory came after he’d torn through the flyweight and strawweight divisions, submitting fighters when the were probably expecting a slew of elite-level Muay Thai to come their way.
Unfortunately for them, the Muay Thai specialist has taken to MMA in a far more well-rounded way than perhaps anyone from that origin has before.
Pacio’s road to Bangkok is less well known. Four submissions and two KOs laid the path for him to enter the ONE cage, where his debut was against Rabin Catalan last April. A TKO via punches led him to fight Kritsada Kongsrichai four months later, which he won inside five minutes by rear-naked choke.
Pacio’s ascent to another title shot will be at least partially blocked by a vociferous home crowd. Thai fans were left stunned when Naito claimed the crown from Dejdamrong, and those fans won’t be willing be sit quietly and watch their man blow a chance at redemption.
Of all of Pacio’s fights, perhaps his win over Kongsrichai is the most revealing. That one wasn’t a thriller, but it was a grueling test for both fighters. The majority of the contest was spent at close quarters with knees battering thighs and torsos.
On the ground it was also intense, and it was Pacio who came out on top, taking his opponent’s back and battling through a tough-to-maintain choke hold until finally the referee called a halt.
Dejdamrong has clearly made the most of the world champion Evolve MMA grappling partners at his disposal, but Pacio looks tough enough to pose at least an equal threat to the home-country hero on the ground.
If Dejdamrong can keep the fight standing, that’s where the difference is likely to be. Muay Thai experience of the type he owns hasn’t yet shown itself as a potent weapon in the MMA world. The time and place to put it on display has come.
Steve Dawson is ONE Championship’s lead commentator, a Fox Sports presenter and an author of sporting biographies. He can be found on Twitter & Instagram as @Gulasahi and on Facebook as Steve Dawson.