There were a lot of questions for the legendary Team Lakay heading into last Friday's ONE: Masters Of Fate. In stark contrast of their phenomenal 2018 run, this year was quite a turbulent ride for the La Trinidad, Benguet mixed martial arts (MMA) stable as they alternated between venerating victories and heartbreaking losses.
Thankfully, they managed to close out their campaign on a strong note, winning all of their bouts on the stacked card that was held at the Mall Of Asia Arena.
More from ONE:
- Pinoy VS Pinoy: Joshua Pacio and Rene Catalan leave everything on the line for a world title
- Inspired by his son, Geje Eustaquio starts on the path of reclaiming his world title
- Recap: Joshua Pacio redeems Team Lakay in a night of scintillating matches
- ONE Championship’s Chatri in Tokyo: “We don’t sell fights; we build heroes”
There could only be one strawweight titleholder in ONE Championship, and Joshua Pacio made sure that he would be the one with the gold strap in the end. In front of a capacity crowd inside the state-of-the-art venue, the 23-year-old phenom from Baguio defeated compatriot Rene Catalan in the main match. This marked the organization’s only second all-Filipino world title bout.
Pacio denied Catalan of becoming the seventh Filipino athlete to capture a world title in ONE Championship, submitting his counterpart with a wrenching arm-triangle choke in the second round. Despite the successful title defense in his second reign as the division’s undisputed king, it was not a walk in the park. Team Lakay’s defending champion delivered the first serious offense of the opening round when his spinning back kick landed cleanly on Catalan’s midsection. He swiftly followed that up with a beautiful takedown.
However, any thoughts of Pacio dominating on the ground were instantly forgotten. Catalan, operating off his back, reached for a heel hook. “The Passion” responded with a toehold, but when his rival tightened the grip, he abandoned his submission attempt and tried to roll his way out of the hold.
As Pacio was breaking free, Catalan transitioned to a kneebar and looked to have his countryman in trouble yet again. But the Team Lakay member systematically broke his opponent’s guard to relieve the pressure, took top position, and spent the final two minutes of the stanza unloading ground strikes and hunting for submissions.
Gaining the confidence he could pose a threat on the mat, Catalan pressed for a takedown at the start of the second stanza. But Pacio maintained his balance, threatened with a guillotine choke, and sprawled to the side of his smaller opponent. He threw a knee to his rival’s head, cradled his leg, and forced him onto his back.
From side control, Pacio reached for his adversary’s neck and started to set up an arm-triangle choke. He held onto the hold, moved counterclockwise to full mount, and then to the other side of his foe’s body to tighten the squeeze. Catalan gamely held on for as long as he could, but the grip was too tight. He was forced to tap at the 2:29 mark of round two.
The grueling triumph improved Pacio’s professional record to 18-3. In addition, he is now on a two-fight winning streak. On the other hand, Catalan fell to 6-3. It’s his first defeat since September 2016 when he embarked on an amazing six-bout victory parade.
Win after win
It was a clean sweep for Team Lakay all the way. Former lightweight champion Eduard Folayang (22-8) is back in the winner’s circle and looks just as good as before, but it was not the outcome that he hoped for.
Folayang took home a technical unanimous decision victory over Mongolian stalwart Amarsanaa Tsogookhuu (5-2) in the co-headliner of the evening. The end came abruptly at 2:32 mark of the second round when both men’s heads inadvertently collided that opened a huge gash on the left cheek of the Filipino.
The Filipino was given the mandatory five minutes recovery time, but the referee and the attending physician opted to halt the contest as blood profusely leaked from the gruesome cut.
Since the match went to the judges because the scheduled three-round encounter had already passed the midway point, the three scoring officials at ringside ruled in favor of Folayang.
It was not hard for the judges to figure out the decision. Folayang operated behind a relentless stream of leg kicks and heavy right hands that left Tsogookhuu at a disadvantage for the majority of the bout. Landing his combinations with laser-like precision, he seemed to be in cruise control before the accidental clash of heads that caused the anticlimactic conclusion.
Meanwhile, Geje Eustaquio (13-8) lived to his reputation as ONE's “King Of Rematch" after avenging his heartbreaking loss to Toni Tauru (11-8-1) nearly three years ago. He knocked out the Finnish grappling wizard in the third round.
Eustaquio effortlessly picked Tauru apart in the stand-up, jolting his rival with stunning left hooks and lashing kicks to the body.
As Tauru tried desperately to stave off attacks that came from all directions, Eustaquio continued to put on the pressure. In the third round, the ex-flyweight kingpin connected a thunderous spinning sidekick to the midsection that dropped his opponent to the canvas.
There was no need for follow-up shots from Eustaquio to seal the deal as Tauru creased in austere pain, compelling the referee to wave it off at the 2:11 mark.
Dealing with harsh criticisms for the past few months, Team Lakay head Mark Sangiao is delighted with how things turned out, highlighting the importance of setbacks in the growth of his athletes.
“Victory and defeat both come with the territory of being a martial artist. Losing is a big part of this sport,” he says. “I would be a hypocrite if I said I was fine with the losses, but let’s be real and say that these losses have served as opportunities for us to re-examine the areas of our skills that we have to improve on.”
“Losing is the greatest teacher, and sometimes in victory, you cannot see your faults. The losses helped our athletes re-evaluate their abilities, their weaknesses, and how we can become better,” Sangiao adds.