Control Over Submission: Breaking Down Joshua Pacio’s Arm Triangle Submission


Joshua Pacio Defends His Title with the Perfect Arm Triangle Setup

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At ONE: Masters of Fate, Joshua Pacio proved that he is not a one-sub wonder. The Team Lakay wunderkind secured a second-round arm triangle submission against fellow Filipino Rene Catalan to successfully defend his ONE strawweight championship. With the win, he improves his record to 15-3, with two of these losses already avenged against Yoshitaka Naito and Yosuke Saruta.

Submissions are not new to Pacio’s game. Prior to this, 6 of his 14 wins came via submission. All except one, however, came via guillotine or rear-naked choke. It was his fight against Pongsiri Mitsatit that turned heads, when he secured a rare hammerlock from back mount that earned the Lakay Submission of the Year honors in 2018. I wrote in a previous article (see “Joshua Pacio’s ‘Passion Lock'”) that the hammerlock was most likely a result of Mitsatit’s lack of grappling experience as much as it was Pacio’s ever-improving ground game. After Masters of Fate, I may need to reassess my stance in favor of the latter.

While his latest submission is not a rarity in MMA competition, Pacio’s textbook arm triangle setup was a thing of beauty, more so in light of Team Lakay naysayers proliferating anew since the team’s recent skid. In a fight between two Wushu practitioners, we could predict that the duel would either be a striking spectacle or be contested on the ground to negate each other’s strengths. (Although, as a second-generation Lakay, Pacio’s career has been focused on MMA since the beginning compared to his manongs’ Wushu background.)


I was actually surprised that it was Rene Catalan who was initiating the clinch and ground battles. The first round saw Catalan attempt a heel hook and then a knee bar to no avail, and in the second a failed takedown attempt from “The Challenger” led to the fight-ending sequence. Pacio converted his sprawl into a takedown, moving quickly to side mount.

ONE Roots of Honor Aftermath: Is It Time for Joshua Pacio vs. Rene Catalan?

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A Filipino vs. Filipino World Title Fight is in the Horizon

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On April 12, 2019, Joshua Pacio became a two-time ONE Championship world champion after knocking out Yosuke Saruta with a head kick in the fourth round of their strawweight title bout at ONE Championship: Roots of Honor at the SM Mall of Asia Arena. More importantly, the victory laid to rest the controversy of his split decision loss to the Japanese three months prior.

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With an emphatic victory against Saruta, the question begs: Who’s next for “The Passion”?

Enter Rene Catalan. After starting his MMA career with back-to-back losses to eventual champions Alex Silva and Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke (DSA), “D’ Challenger” has stringed an impressive six-fight win streak in the competitive strawweight division of ONE, highlighted by his TKO victory over former champion Yoshitaka Naito. Prior to Naito, Catalan bested then undefeated Stefer Rahardian, a ONE national tournament champion who was himself poised to become a contender in the stacked strawweight division.

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I’ve said before that I wouldn’t mind seeing Pacio, Naito, and Silva compete for the strawweight crown over and over again due to how technical and evenly matched these fighters are. Silva, in particular, has yet to compete against Pacio – an interesting prospect should Silva string a couple of wins to get him back into title contention. At this point in time, however, having Naito or Silva as the next challenger does not make sense: Naito is 0-2 after back-to-back losses to Pacio and Catalan; Silva is likewise on a two-loss skid against Naito and Saruta.

Rene Catalan is Proving All the Doubters Wrong at 40

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Rene Catalan records sixth straight win in ONE Championship over former champ Yoshitaka Naito

Editor’s Note: I wanted to do justice in covering this milestone for Rene Catalan, so I asked Catalan Fighting System long-time student and fellow MMA writer Dreau Lanot to share Catalan’s journey from his perspective.

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By the age of 40, most combat sport athletes have already slid past their prime and are considered done. In MMA, where the demands to the body and psyche are far more steep, the peak performance window of a fighter often closes earlier. However, for Rene Catalan, he has fought against and triumphed over too many odds to simply yield to Father Time.

Catalan was already 34 and has been a few years removed from his last combat exposure when he signed with ONE in 2013. His MMA career started in the shadows: a submission loss on his debut, followed by a no-contest from absorbing illegal blows, and then a knockout.

It took over three years and a couple of camp relocations before he could find his winning formula; the Filipino Wushu-Sanda record holder only earned his first MMA win in September 2016 against Chinese opponent Zhang You Liang.