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Joshua Pacio kept the ONE Championship strawweight belt around his waist, authoring a masterful performance against one-time division kingpin Alex Silva of Brazil in the main event. The Baguio native welcomed everything the Brazilian grappling wizard had to offer from the get-go, surprising him with a superb takedown defense and inhibiting Silva’s advances for submission.
The 24-year-old imposed his will in the second frame, firing signature wushu kicks to his opponent’s leg and body. In the third round, it was clear that Silva wanted the action on the canvas. But Pacio never relented, uncorking a knee to the chin. Breathing heavily after his failed takedown and submission attempts, Silva became a stationary target for Pacio, who turned up the intensity of his punches in the fourth stanza.
In a last-ditch effort, Silva successfully took Pacio down to the mat in the fifth and last round. But the Team Lakay phenom easily returned to his feet and picked up where he left off in the toe-to-toe trade, drilling the Brazilian’s midsection with spinning back-kicks.
The exhausted Silva pushed for a takedown with 30 seconds remaining on the clock, but Pacio caught him with a guillotine choke, holding onto that position until the bell.
After five punishing rounds, two of the three cageside judges awarded the victory to Pacio, resulting in a split decision. He improved his mixed martial arts record to 19-4. On the other hand, Silva broke his two-fight winning streak and fell to a 9-5 standing.
“It’s hard. I just fought two months ago and returned immediately to training for this fight,” says Pacio in his post-fight interview, referring to his second-round submission of compatriot Rene Catalan. “We really worked on the ground game.”
Pacio admitted that he needed to be patient in his approach as one mistake could lead to his downfall at the hands of Silva. “He is a former champion for a good reason, and Alex is a jiu-jitsu black belt as well. It’s dangerous to be with him on the ground. But I proved that we could keep up with his pace and dominate him on the ground,” he explained.
Meanwhile, in the co-headliner of the evening, Pieter Buist (17-4) of the Netherlands attained the biggest victory of his professional career as he toppled Filipino icon Eduard Folayang (22-9) in a lightweight showdown. Buist, who filled in for Pakistan’s Ahmed Mujtaba, proved to be a tall order for the former lightweight champion as Folayang had difficulties in landing his strikes because of the Dutch’s length and height advantage.
Giving away five inches to Buist, Folayang showcased a different facet of his arsenal in the first round, opting to wrestle with his lanky opposition. He fished for the finish in the dying moments of the period, nearly fastening a Kimura lock before resetting to a guillotine choke.
The 6-foot-2 Buist had Folayang in trouble midway of the second round, where he latched on a triangle choke. As his confidence grew, the Dutch rattled the Filipino with his long head kicks. The same kick hurt Folayang in the third stanza, putting him on wobbly legs. The Team Lakay captain took a few minutes to recover from the blow before he scored a crucial takedown. In the end, two of the three judges favored the courageous efforts of Buist.
Team Lakay’s hot start
Before Folayang’s heartbreaking defeat, three other members of Team Lakay won on the night's undercard.
After bowing to former UFC champion Demetrious Johnson in the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix finals last October, Danny Kingad (14-2) outlasted China’s Xie Wei (5-3) in a rugged dogfight to put himself back on the winning track.
Kingad looked a step ahead on all fronts in the opening salvo, tagging the Chinese stalwart with a left hook-right uppercut combination before slamming his foe on the mat that drew a thunderous roar from the crowd inside the Mall Of Asia Arena.
Xie, who appeared to be gasping air from his mouth at the start of the second period due to the Filipino’s overpowering ground game, had minimal success in landing elbow shots and kicks in the stand-up exchanges. But as soon as Kingad started to change levels and shot for takedowns, Xie offered no effective offense to prevent his opponent’s attack.
Xie came alive in the third and final round, but he was called for an intentional head-butt and a knee to the back of the head. In the last 90 seconds of the encounter, Kingad pulled out every trick from his sleeve to salvage a unanimous decision.
Meanwhile, ONE Warrior Series alumnus Lito Adiwang (11-2) put together another impressive showing in his sophomore appearance on the promotion’s main roster, making quick work of Thailand’s Pongsiri Mitsatit (10-5) via first-round submission.
In the opening moments of the strawweight bout, “The Thunder Kid” almost furnished the finish by dropping Mitsatit with a lashing kick to the ribcage and then raining down a plethora of punishing elbows to the head.
Although Mitsatit managed to survive the initial onslaught from his Filipino cage counterpart, it did not take Adiwang too long to wrap it up as a wild scramble on the ground led him to catching the Thai’s arm for a Kimura lock. Without an ample space to make an escape, Mitsatit had no other choice but to concede, giving Adiwang his second-straight win by way of submission.
Setting the tone for Team Lakay was Filipina atomweight Gina Iniong (9-4), who dominated Indian boxer Asha Roka (4-2) in the grappling department to cruise to a unanimous decision win.
Billed to be a battle between two fighters who have remarkable striking backgrounds, Iniong flipped the script, taking her opponent down to the mat with ease and then applying a tremendous amount of pressure with her sturdy top control from bell to bell.
The 2019 Southeast Asian Games gold medalist punctuated the marquee match-up by grinding out Roka further on the ground, which was enough to earn her the landslide win.
Photographs by Richard Esguerra