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.
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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.
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Undisputed: Team Lakay Showed Us They’re the Best Team in Asia

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Team Lakay Now has Three ONE World Champions in Their Roster

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One night after Team Lakay bagged four awards in ONE Championship’s Global Martial Arts Awards, Kevin Belingon outworked Bibiano Fernandes to become the new undisputed ONE bantamweight world champion. Winning by split decision, he joins Lakay teammates Geje Eustaquio and Joshua Pacio to hold three belts in Asia’s largest mixed martial arts organization. And, two weeks from now, Eduard Folayang has the opportunity to reclaim his belt and make it four out of the 11 available belts strapped around a Lakay’s waist.

ONE Championship was Damn Right in Giving Mark Sangiao Coach of the Year

The main event at ONE: Heart of a Lion was nothing short of a Fight of the Year candidate. Bibiano Fernandes came out to win, bringing the fight to Kevin Belingon with his trademark grappling, working to finish the fight with several submission attempts. On the other hand, as expected Belingon did his best work on the feet, punishing Fernandes with body kicks and combinations that left marks on the former bantamweight king’s face as the decision was read. Easily, Bibiano won Round 3, while Belingon took Round 5. The rest of the rounds, we could argue ’til kingdom come.

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Most people’s light bulb memory of Kevin Belingon was his flash knockout of David Aranda at ONE: Moment of Truth. Personally, Kevin Belingon’s loss to Masakatsu Ueda is the memory I always refer to pertaining to ‘The Silencer’. Sure, he lost that bout, but it was an excellent performance as he used all his available tools to keep the Japanese grappling stalwart at bay. My favorite was his strategy of timing a knee whenever Ueda would dive for a takedown.
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