Takedown artist Saruta edges Pacio to capture world straw-weight title

ONE Championship star Angela Lee posts message to her fans following loss to Michelle Nicolini

The ONE Championship world straw-weight title is coming home to Japan.

Replacing compatriot Hayato Suzuki, Japan’s Yosuke Saruta stepped up to the plate to challenge Joshua Pacio of the Philippines for the straw-weight gold at ONE Championship Eternal Glory. Making the most out of the opportunity, Saruta crowned himself champion by defeating Pacio via split decision in ONE’s first fight card for 2019 held inside Istora Senayan in Jakarta, Indonesia Saturday night.

The 31-year old challenger fighting out of Saitama relied on his grappling expertise, catching Pacio with double-leg takedowns throughout the five-round bout. Saruta controlled the action against the Team Lakay product every time the fight went to the ground.

Thirty seconds into the opening round, Saruta took the fight to the mat after catching Pacio’s right leg who missed on a roundhouse kick attempt. Establishing half guard, “Tobizaru” grounded the reigning strawweight kingpin with short punches and elbows.

That would be the recurring theme for the bout, as Saruta dodged an assortment of kicks and two-punch combinations thrown by Pacio, answering back with multiple takedowns. The Wajutsu Keishukai Hearts fighter scored two more takedowns against Pacio in the fifth round, which practically sealed the upset.

Saruta improves his mixed martial arts record to 19 wins against eight losses while Pacio, who entered the match on a four-fight winning streak, falls to 13-3.

With the title win, Saruta follows the footsteps of countryman Yoshitaka Naito – a two-time ONE strawweight world champion. Naito’s two title reigns lasted for a combined 694 days before yielding to crown to Pacio last September via unanimous decision.

For the dethroned Pacio, it’s back to the drawing boards with the rest of Team Lakay – kicking off the year in an inauspicious manner after having a dominant mixed martial arts campaign in 2018.

Kelly falls to Lee, Catalan outpoints Rahardian

Meanwhile, two other Filipinos took part in the Jakarta card and had contrasting results.

Singapore’s Christian Lee avenged a controversial September 2018 loss to Edward Kelly, stopping the Team Lakay member with vicious ground and pound at the 2:53 of the first round. Referee Kemp Cheng called for the stoppage after Lee stunned Kelly with three solid punches to the face.

After the fight, Lee expressed his interest for a rematch against ONE featherweight world champion Martin Nguyen. Lee came up short in his first shot for the title in May 2018, losing via split decision to the Vietnamese-Australian champion.

Wushu and Muay Thai specialist Robin Catalan outclassed hometown bet Stefer Rahardian to record the lone victory for the Philippines for the night. Catalan dictated the tempo of the bout with leg kicks and overhand rights. In the final round, the Catalan Fighting System product scored a big double-leg takedown against the Indonesian to seal the win.

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