After reeling from several title loses, Team Lakay breathed a sigh of relief with a pair of big victories in ONE: Roots of Honor on Friday night .
First, it was Edward "The Ferocious" Kelly who hammered out a technical knockout win against Sung Jong Lee, despite being threatened by leg locks for most of the fight. While on the ground, Kelly hurt Sung with pointed elbows forcing the referee to stop the fight in the second round.
Then came Joshua Pacio’s stunning stoppage of Japan’s Yosuke Saruta to take back the ONE strawweight crown. Pacio had been whipping out head kicks all night long, and in the fourth round he inadvertently connected his knee while throwing another round house. This flattened Saruta and effectively ended the bout.
The victories were much-needed for Team Lakay, as they lost all four of its ONE world titles in just a span of three months.
“I knew that he's a leg specialist,” Kelly said of Sung. “But I'm confident I can tolerate and escape his leg locks. I knew that legs of Filipinos are tough.”
Pacio said he went after Saruta’s head since Round 1.
“I was setting him up with leg kicks, then head kicks. Up and down. I got the opportunity in Round 4, when he started swinging wild. His head was low so that's the time I connected,” said the now 2-time champion.
Last January, Pacio lost that same crown to Saruta via a tight decision. Then one after the other, the remaining Team Lakay champions got dislodged from their thrones, too.
Geje Eustaquio absorbed a controversial decision from Adriano Moraes in their rubber match to surrender the ONE flyweight title that same month. Last March, Eduard Folayang and Kevin Belingon also failed to defend their belts in ONE: A New Era in Tokyo.
Which is why Kelly scoring the stoppage and Pacio reclaiming the crown is a redemption of sorts for Team Lakay.
Team Lakay’s head coach Mark Sangiao said this will only spur them to work harder in the gym.
“We train nonstop and we train hard,” said Sangiao in Filipino. “This is why we come back.”
For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.