Thrilling Showdown in Bangkok
In a thrilling showdown between two top-rated strawweight contenders, Joshua "The Passion" Pacio and Mansur Malachiev went head-to-head at ONE Fight Night 15. This epic battle took place at the renowned Lumpinee Boxing Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand on October 7.
The stakes were high, as the victor stood a chance to secure a coveted shot at the ONE strawweight championship, currently held by Jarred Brooks. The fight was an all-out war, and Pacio ultimately emerged victorious with a unanimous decision after a grueling contest.
Right from the opening bell, it was clear that both fighters were determined to leave their mark. Pacio showcased his impressive takedown defense, thwarting Malachiev's early attempts to bring the fight to the canvas.
The action escalated as the first round unfolded. Malachiev managed to secure a crucial takedown, but Pacio showcased his resilience by ending the round with a menacing guillotine choke, showcasing his underrated submission skills.
Explosive Striking Arsenal
The second round was an electrifying exchange of heavy blows. Pacio started with precise leg kicks, but Malachiev countered with a spinning backfist that rocked Pacio. The fight transitioned to the ground, where Pacio briefly took control, only for Malachiev to execute a sweep and regain dominance.
Recognizing the Importance of Damage
Despite the takedowns, Pacio was confident as the judges' scorecards were considered. He attributed his confidence to his powerful striking. Pacio landed clean punches, inflicted damage with leg kicks, and even opened a cut on Malachiev's face. He understood that the Global MMA Rule Set places great importance on the damage inflicted.
Following the contest between these top-five strawweight contenders, Pacio remarked, "I was throwing heavy shots, and I think it's the damage category [where I won]. Yes, he took me down, but he didn't damage me from my guard."
Grappling Prowess and Toughness
Apart from his stand-up skills, Pacio also reminded fans of his grappling prowess. He applied tight guillotine chokes on Malachiev multiple times. In fact, one choke attempt in the second round came close to finishing the fight. However, with a potential ONE Strawweight MMA World Championship opportunity at stake, the resilient Russian refused to submit.
Pacio praised his opponent's toughness and determination, saying, "In the second round, I heard him struggling. But, you know, for us, Mansur and I, this is our shot for a title. So, we gave it our all. He was very hard to get. He's undefeated for a reason."
Eyes on the Prize: Rematch with Jarred Brooks
With the unanimous decision victory, Joshua Pacio has a compelling case for challenging his long-time rival, reigning ONE Strawweight MMA World Champion Jarred "The Monkey God" Brooks, for the title.
Before the outspoken American claimed the belt at ONE 164 last December, Pacio held the World Title for a little over four years.
While Pacio believes that his win over Mansur Malachiev warrants a rematch with Brooks, he's not entirely satisfied with his performance at ONE Fight Night 15 on Prime Video this past Friday. If he needs to defeat another one of the division's top-five contenders first, he's willing to accept the challenge.
Ready for the Next Challenge
When asked if a World Title rematch with "The Monkey God" is next, Pacio said, "I think so. But honestly, I'm not impressed with my performance right now. I need to go to the gym again and work harder, you know? I was not relaxed, I was concentrated on throwing the power shots because I saw the damage. And I was eager to throw power shots. So, it really got in my head, to finish him. But that's not how it was supposed to happen. I should have been more relaxed, throw my combinations more confidently.
"If they give me Jarred Brooks, I'll grab it. Like what I've said, if they give me [#2-ranked contender] Bokang [Masunyane] or someone else in the top five, I'll still grab it."
Proving His Elite Status
Although he was disappointed that he couldn't secure a finish and add to his highlight reel, the Lions Nation MMA representative is now focused on growth and improvement.
Whether it's against Brooks, Masunyane, or any other top-ranked strawweight contender, Pacio aims to prove that he's still an elite MMA fighter in his next outing, saying, "I'm going to go home and rest. I'm eager to go back to the training camp, watch my errors in the fight because honestly, like I said, I was not impressed with my performance, and I need to come back and show people that I really deserve to be a champion again."