Joshua Pacio Defends His Title with the Perfect Arm Triangle Setup
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.
Keys to Victory for #TeamKingad
First of all, let’s give credit where credit is due. Chatri Sityodtong, you are one awesome CEO. When ONE Championship announced that they signed MMA superstars Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson and Eddie “The Underground King” Alvarez, I honestly thought that their exposure would be limited to ONE’s US, Japan, and Singapore presence. Not even a year later, we were able to watch BOTH Mighty Mouse and Alvarez fight live on Philippine soil. So again, Chatri, thank you.
Perhaps the biggest news from Dawn of Heroes is that Danny Kingad and Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson are set to face each other for the ONE Flyweight Grand Prix finals in Japan at ONE: CENTURY this October 13. “The King” won a split decision over Reece McLaren while Johnson decisioned a very game Tatsumitsu Wada in a grappling masterclass. McLaren was actually winning before he gassed in the third, where Kingad’s high-altitude conditioning paid dividends with a third-round comeback that sealed the victory. Mighty Mouse’s slashing elbow was the critical factor that caused the most significant damage – a cut on Wada’s forehead – in their three-round war.
Danny Kingad was all praises for Reece McLaren prior to their match at Dawn of Heroes, even stating that McLaren was one of his idols. You could just imagine what good things he’ll have to say about the 12-time UFC flyweight champion leading to their October clash. Whether this admiration would lead Kingad to train his effing hardest or require a need to set this idol worship aside to focus on the prize, the young Lakay and his entire team will have to figure things out soonest as no doubt Mighty Mouse is already back in the gym training for their showdown.
And while (almost) every Filipino is #TeamKingad on this one, let’s look at the keys for Danny “The King” Kingad to increase his probability of bringing that shiny Grand Prix belt home on October.
Shout out to Fight Game Asia for this awesome digital poster.
#1 Height and Reach Advantage
Danny Kingad enjoys a 5-cm height advantage over Mighty Mouse. Practically everyone has a height and reach advantage over Mighty Mouse, even at flyweight. But, no one has ever capitalized on this advantage, perhaps because DJ nullifies this with his speed and clinch game. An advantage is still an advantage, and “The King” should make full use of this by rounding out his stand up and take down defense.
A Filipino vs. Filipino World Title Fight is in the Horizon
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.
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.
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.