Youth prevailed in Manila on Friday night.
ONE strawweight champion Joshua Pacio earned the first defense of his title by defeating 40-year-old challenger Rene Catalan via arm-triangle choke at 2:29 in round two.
Order UFC 281
Israel Adesanya vs. Alex Pereira is tonight! Watch every UFC 281 fight here.
- Israel Adesanya vs. Alex Pereira
- Carla Esparza vs. Zhang Weili
- Dustin Poirier vs. Michael Chandler
Standing in the ring as confetti rained down upon him, belt on his shoulder, Pacio addressed the Filipino crowd in his native tongue. He then explained to Mitch Chilson that the fight played out the way he expected it to.
“The game plan is first round one, I will feel him little bit with the striking,” Pacio said, “and if I feel that I can take him down and control him to the ground, I will do it.”
And the champion did just that.
The fight began with a touch of gloves.
Both fighters featured their kicks early on as they found their range. Pacio landed the first big strike with a spinning back kick that tagged Catalan on the body.
Pacio’s success continued as he landed a takedown and took top position against Catalan. Pacio tried to stand shortly after, but the two then engaged in a battle of leg locks after Catalan hung on from his back.
Pacio’s submission attempt was unsuccessful, and he bailed on the attempt. Catalan hung on for a bit longer, still threatening the foot of Pacio before eventually losing the grip himself.
Pacio then returned to his spot on top of Catalan. He finished the first round of the title fight in side control.
Both fighters leaned on their striking prowess in the beginning of the second round, but it was Pacio who exhibited the cleaner punches, landing combinations as Catalan stepped into range.
Catalan shot a takedown, but it was stuffed by Pacio, who, like in the first round, took control on the mat from top position.
Pacio jumped into mount with his arm wrapped around the head and arm of his opponent before moving to the side. Catalan tried to hold on for as long as he could with his arms interlocked, but the pressure eventually forced him to tap.
The 23-year-old champion’s first title defense comes after he won the belt back from Yosuke Saruta by fourth-round knockout. Saruta previously defeated Pacio by split decision after Pacio first earned the belt with a unanimous decision win over Yoshitaka Naito in their rematch in September of 2018.
As for what’s next, the Team Lakay fighter will wait to see who ONE puts in front of him.
“For me, I am the champion,” Pacio said. “My job is to keep on training and to level up and just wait for the next opponent, and I’ll defend it.”
Shane Connelly is a journalism student at Penn State with a passion for sharing the stories of MMA fighters.