The capacity crowd inside the Mall Of Asia Arena had plenty to cheer about.
At last night’s ONE: Roots Of Honor, ONE Championship’s 17th event on Philippine soil, there were awe-inspiring performances, including several jaw-dropping knockouts and highlight-reel submissions. ANCX looks back at the bouts that left a lasting impression.
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Joshua Pacio reclaims throne as strawweight king
Joshua Pacio broke Team Lakay's despondent four-match losing skid in world title contests in his rematch against Japanese rival Yosuke Saruta. The Filipino’s stable is widely associated with the local MMA scene due to the big number of notable talents it’s been producing since it began in 2003. But, starting January, the team has struggled at the world championship stage on four different occasions.
The Baguio native arrested that losing spell by beating Saruta, whom he knocked out with a head kick in the fourth round. The victory gave back the Strawweight belt to Pacio and improved his professional MMA record to 14-3. But, more importantly, it was also a welcome development for Team Lakay. “I’m speechless. I thank God for the strength,” the 23-year-old says. “My kababayans, thank you. This win is for all of you.
Martin Nguyen stops Mongolian brute
Vietnamese-Australian sensation Martin Nguyen successfully defended his Featherweight belt against former division kingpin Narantungalag Jadambaa. It was an intriguing battle between the hardened veteran against one of the new generation’s dynamic athletes.
The Mongolian veteran tried his best to resist Nguyen’s offense, but the latter proved to be too much for Jadambaa. The end of the bout came as Nguyen scored a perfect flying knee in the second round, sending his opponent to the canvas. No follow-up was necessary after that.
Nguyen’s second world title defense moved his win-loss standing to 12-3, and after the contest, he sent a message to the challengers in the weight class. “This is my division. Bottom line. That’s it,” the 30-year-old declares.
Edward Kelly impresses in Manila
Team Lakay’s Edward Kelly weathered a storm of submission attempts from Sung Jong Lee. The former scored a second-round technical knockout win against the latter South Korean grappler.
Kelly fought off kneebar and heel hook attempts from Lee, who was in constant pursuit of grappling exchanges. However, the 35-year-old Igorot warrior turned the tables in the second round as he fended off yet another submission attempt. It gave him the opening to secure a dominant position to pound Lee out with piston-like punches for the stoppage win.
While Kelly got the victory, his older brother Eric succumbed to South Korea’s Kwon Won Il via a shocking 19-second knockout. Kwon landed a well-placed right straight that rocked and dropped the Philippine MMA icon. The Korean prospect then finished things off with a torrent of vicious hammer-fists to compel the referee to halt the match.
Ramon Gonzales extends winning streak
Setting the tone for a high-octane evening was Ramon Gonzales’ 79-second submission victory over Japan’s Akihiro Fujisawa. This extended Gonzales’ impressive winning streak in ONE. The previously-unbeaten Japanese tried to take the contest to the ground to stop his opponent’s dynamic kicking game. But the Karate stylist’s swift submission offense took him by surprise.
Gonzales latched straight on to his opponent’s neck when he shot in for a double-leg takedown. Despite Fujisawa's best efforts to escape, he could not free himself from the tight choke. Gonzales then drove his foe into the fence and put on a crushing squeeze to force the tap. The elated crowd cheered as he picked up his third consecutive submission win.
Photographs courtesy of One Championship