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.

Joshua Pacio: “The main goal is to win this fight whatever happens”

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Team Lakay prospect Joshua Pacio is focused on Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke this Saturday night


After a hard-fought title loss to reigning ONE world strawweight champion Yoshitaka Naito last October, it would be an injustice to say that this Saturday’s title eliminator against former champion Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke (DSA) is Joshua Pacio’s toughest challenge yet. It is however safe to say that it would be one of the toughest challenges not only of his young career, but possibly its entirety thereof.

Earning his keep in Pro-Am leagues before debuting in ONE Championship last April 2016, fighting in Asia’s largest MMA promotion had something both expected and surprising for Pacio. “Ever since I was in Pro-Am, I had my sights set on ONE [Championship],” Joshua told MMA Philippines in this exclusive. “I knew that once I stepped foot on ONE, I will only be fighting high-level opponents from here on out.” He continued, “ONE is such a big stage for MMA. When I first fought in ONE, the audience was a big difference for me. Paglabas ko sa entrance papunta sa cage, grabe ang dami at lakas ng sigaw ng mga tao! (When I walked out towards the cage, the volume of people and their cheers were exhilarating!)”

Despite the nerves he may have felt at the time, Pacio quickly racked up two wins at ONE before facing the undefeated Naito. After controlling the fight for two rounds using his range and takedown defense, Pacio fell prey to a rear naked choke which the crafty Japanese converted from a failed takedown attempt.