ONE Strawweight World Champion Joshua “The Passion” Pacio insisted that he wasn’t feeling much pressure despite being the last remaining Mixed Martial Arts World Champion from the Philippines.
He quickly showed why in his long-awaited return to the Circle.
The 25-year-old superstar needed less than a round to finish old nemesis Yosuke “The Ninja” Saruta, as he capped off their World Title trilogy in style with a sensational TKO victory at ONE: REVOLUTION on Friday, 24 September.
The action started slowly at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, with Saruta taking the center of the Circle while Pacio utilized his kicks to keep his opponent at bay.
In what may have foreshadowed the finish just minutes later, the first real action came when Pacio caught Saruta’s low kick and landed a grazing overhand right, which pushed the #1-ranked contender off-balance. However, the Team Lakay standout failed to capitalize on that opportunity.
The match continued in much of the same manner, with the Wajutsu Keishukai Hearts representative trying to break into Pacio’s defense with his boxing while the reigning titleholder softened his foe with kicks.
With less than two minutes remaining in the first, “The Passion” saw another opportunity – and this time, he was ready to pounce on it.
Learning from their earlier exchange, the Filipino once again caught Saruta going low with his kicks, and he was right on target with his overhand right, which wobbled the Japanese challenger.
Saruta tried to escape, but there was no running from Pacio. He refused to let “The Ninja” off the hook, connecting with a booming left hand that sent the 34-year-old to the Circle Wall.
From there, “The Passion” unloaded at least five more unanswered left hands as the referee stopped the contest at the 3:38 mark of the first round.
“It’s really about who’s going to find the right opening in this match, and I did it,” Pacio told Mitch Chilson during his post-fight interview.
“We’ve been working on all of our strengths and weaknesses. We’re working on our counters as well. We’re working on our offense, and you can see it [in that finish].”
The win pushed Pacio to 20-3, as he defended the ONE Strawweight World Title for the third time. He also upped his records for the most wins in ONE strawweight history (9), most ONE Strawweight World Title fights (7), and most ONE Strawweight World Title fight victories (5).
In the process, he defeated Saruta for the second straight time after losing by split decision in their first World Title affair back in January 2019.