ONE Championship returns on Saturday, Jan. 19, from the Istora Senayan in Jakarta, Indonesia, for ONE Championship: Eternal Glory.
The promotion’s first event of the year features a strawweight championship clash between current titleholder Joshua Pacio and former Shooto strawweight world champ Yosuke “Tobizaru” Saruta. Pacio makes the first defense of his belt since capturing the title over former two-time champion Yoshitaka “Nobita” Naito at ONE Championship: Conquest of Heroes last year. Pacio was originally scheduled to face Japan’s Hayato Suzuki. However, an injury to Suzuki paved the way to Saruta, who won his promotional debut against former ONE titleholder Alex Silva.
In the co-headliner, former Lumpinee stadium champion Mongkolpetch Petchyindee Academy straps on the four-ounce gloves in a Muay Thai rules contest against New Zealand’s Alexi “Phet” Serepisos.
In other main-card action, talented lightweight prospect Christian Lee looks to kick off another winning streak when he faces Filipino Edward Kelly, former ONE lightweight champion Kotetsu Boku returns against Brazilian Bruno Pucci, and former title challenger Koji Ando takes on Russia’s Rasul Yakhyaev.
The preliminary card action kicks off at 6:30 a.m. ET on ONE Championship’s Facebook and Twitter accounts. The main card continues live at 8:30 a.m. ET on the ONE Championship App, Youtube, and B/R Live (United States).
Joshua Pacio has conquered the ONE “strawweight” division — ONE’s odd weigh-in rules essentially make this a flyweight division — with his win over Yoshitaka Naito. Now, he makes his first defense against Yosuke Saruta. Does Saruta pose a legitimate threat to an extended Pacio title reign?
Pacio has been on a collision course with greatness since taking up the sport in 2013. Born in Baguio City, Philippines, it was a forgone conclusion that “Passion” would find his home with Team Lakay. Pacio put together an undefeated amateur record and six wins as a professional before signing on the dotted line with ONE Championship. It was a natural fit for multiple reasons, including the promotion’s fan following in the country and status as one of the only promotions in the world that houses the strawweight division (even though the fighters technically fight at 125 pounds).
Pacio wasted no time in making a name for himself once debuting with the promotion as a 20-year-old. He won back-to-back fights by submission, but came up short in his first title challenge against then-champion Yoshitaka “Nobita” Naito. Pacio picked up his biggest win at the time in his next fight by defeating former ONE champ and multiple-time Lumpinee stadium champion Dejdamrong Sor. Amnuaysirichoke. He once again tasted defeat at the hands of Japanese submission artist Hayato Suzuki in his next bout. However, Pacio has reeled off four straight wins since. He avenged his first career loss to Naito in his second attempt at winning the ONE strawweight belt. This time, the Filipino prospect was victorious after five hard-fought rounds.
Originally scheduled to face Suzuki in another attempt to erase the other of his career losses, Pacio is now faced with the former Shooto strawweight champ Saruta. “Tobizaru” is a 10-year veteran of the sport with 18 wins in his pro career. The longtime Shooto veteran began competing at the age of 18 in his hometown of Kawaguchi City, Japan, under Reversal Gym Kawaguchi REDIPS. After starting off his career with a mere two wins in six fights, Saruta fought his way to two Shooto flyweight title shots and victories over former UFC fighter Shunichi Shimizu and Shooto vets Kentaro Watanabe and Masaaki Sugawara.
The 31-year-old took his career to the next level when he moved his training camp to Tokyo two years ago. Saruta joined the Wajutsu Keishukai HEARTS gym under Japanese MMA mainstay Kenji Osawa. Since moving to the big city, Saruta has gone on an impressive run that includes eight wins and just one defeat in his past 10 contests. The streak includes victories over King of Pancrase Kiyotaka Shimizu and rising prospect Koha Minowa, as well as a title-winning performance against Shooto champ Ryuto Sawada. Saruta’s lone loss during this stretch came at flyweight in a back-and-forth battle with talented prospect Takumi Tamaru via third-round injury forced by a spinning back kick to the eye. Saruta re-entered the win column in his ONE debut against former titleholder Alex Silva just over one month ago.
Both fighters are well rounded with a knack for fighting in all phases of the game. The speed, timing and ground transitions will be on full display when these top strawweights clash over five rounds. In 13 pro wins, Pacio has finished 11 opponents. Although Pacio is a finisher by trade, Saruta has the skill set on the ground to get himself out of disadvantageous positions. Saruta has been stopped by strikes in five of his eight losses, but he has made it the distance in all but two losses since 2011. This is a high-level strawweight (or flyweight by worldwide standards) bout between two of the best in Asia. Pacio has all of the tools to hold onto the title for the time being, but the list of challengers runs deep.
Muay Thai takes center stage in ONE’s co-headliner between Alexi Serepisos and Mongkolpetch Petchyindee Academy. How important is this fight?
In terms of importance to the ONE Super Series flyweight division, this fight likely won’t decide the next challenger to Sam-A Gaiyanghadao’s title. With that said, it’s not common for a frequent competitor in the major stadiums in Thailand to compete outside of Thailand. Both fighters will be making their debuts with plenty of stakes on the line. Serepisos is the second Kiwi fighter to make his ONE Super Series debut, following the path of Brad Riddell. Should he defeat a former stadium champion, he will immediately put himself on the map in the Muay Thai world.
Serepisos is already a seasoned veteran of the sport with nearly nine years of experience. The New Zealander discovered the sport following news that his girlfriend was pregnant. He was looking for a discipline that could provide both comfort and a future for his family. The grandson of Greek immigrants would begin his journey in Wellington, but would eventually bring his camp to Team House of Pain in Hamilton, New Zealand, under the watchful eye of trainer Ethan Shepp and training partners Carlos Hicks and GLORY veteran Quade Taranaki.
After years of competition, Serepisos started bringing home the hardware by winning national titles in his home country. The 24-year-old has since compiled an impressive 40 wins and just 13 losses in his 53 pro fights. His resume includes a number of championship belts and tournament titles, including the WMC I1 championship, the 2015 King in the Ring tournament crown, the KITR “FORCE” tournament title and the IKBF 62.5-kilogram belt. “Phet” has competed all over the world, including in Myanmar under Lethwei rules, where he fought ILFJ champion Tun Lwin Moe, and against three-time Rajadamnern stadium champion Lerdsila PhuketTopTeam for the Lion Fight lightweight title at Lion Fight 40. Despite losing both contests, Serepisos gained invaluable experience. In his most recent bout, he defeated Chris Nguyen at Rebellion Muay Thai 19 in May 2018.
Mongkolpetch enters the contest as the odds-on favorite due to his tremendous experience advantage gained while competing at the highest level in Thailand. The 23-year-old has competed 150 times in his professional career. He has 110 victories, including a major stadium title, which is one of the highest achievements in the sport. The former Lumpinee stadium super featherweight champ comes from humble beginnings. Born in the Isaan region in Northeast Thailand, Mongkolpetch began competing in the sport at the age of 10, much like many young boys who grew up poor in the area. Prior to his first fight, he was given his ring name from his uncle, who was a former fighter under the same name.
After competing for the first time, Mongkolpetch fell in love with the sport and the potential to have future success and money to bring stability to his family. After a year of competition, Mongkolpetch moved to the Kesa Gym in the northern part of Bangkok. His time spent with the more experienced trainers and sparring partners led to his success in the bigger stadiums, and eventually to his Lumpinee title. After years of success under Kesa Gym, Mongkolpetch fell on a period of time where he wasn’t motivated, found the wrong friends, and let his training slip away.
Recently, the famed Petchyindee Academy — the home of ONE competitors Petchmorrakot, Petchdam and Sorgraw — approached him about training at the high-level facility. The move paid dividends when Mongkolpetch began to resurrect his once great career by again competing in the major stadiums. Over the course of the past few months, he has traded wins and losses. He fell short in decisions to Detsakda and Yamin. However, he landed a destructive left hook to stop Maelhamess and, most recently, defeated Tawanseuk SitAor.Boonchop to win the REVO Marathon title in December.
This match-up is intriguing, to say the least. Although Mongkolpetch grew his skill set under a clinch-heavy style of fighting, he has since adapted his game to the rule set he’ll face under the ONE banner. With only three rounds to work, he will have to push the pace further against Serepisos, who is a cardio machine and tough son of a bitch in his own right. Of the two fighters, Serepisos has the better kickboxing-combination flow, but Mongkolpetch has a knack for landing his body punches from the outside. Inside, Mongkolpetch is the superior grappler and clinch fighter. He should be able to control Serepisos if he can force his opponent against the ropes with forward pressure.
Serepisos is very well rounded in his attack. He combines a sharp boxing game with strong low kicks and an active teep kick. His ability to hang in the pocket under fire opens up his offensive attack, especially when he throws his left hook to the body, right uppercut, and right low kick on the retreat. His use of the lead and counter uppercut is surprisingly effective under Muay Thai rules, because it is an uncommon scoring weapon under traditional rules. His best attribute might be his toughness and unrelenting will to never stop coming forward. He will take his opponent’s best shots in order to break them down over the course of the fight.
Both men have their advantages in the bout. However, hand-fighting, framing, clinch work and, maybe more importantly, the fighters’ defensive guards and head movement will determine how this fight will play out. The outcome of the contest will be predicated on the fact that they will be wearing four-ounce gloves and fighting inside of a circular cage. Mongkolpetch has the experience advantage, but Serepisos won’t go down without a fight.
Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?
Former ONE lightweight champion Kotetsu Boku makes his return to the cage after more than a year away. The 41-year-old is a charismatic personality with a knack for photography, plenty of tattoos, and a plethora of strip-club stories (that’s not an exaggeration). The veteran of more than 17 years has fought much of his career in Japan, but he has only fought once in the Land of the Rising Sun since 2012. Boku has won six of his 11 fights in ONE Championship, including his debut where he knocked out Zorobabel Moreira Jr. to win the title. The Japanese fighter, who is adequately nicknamed “No Face,” has stopped 14 of his 26 opponents in winning affairs. He holds notable wins over Timofey Nastyukhin, Alexandre Franca Nogueira and UFC veterans Eiji Mitsuoka and Hermes Franca.
Boku is a striker equipped with a solid jab and powerful right hand. He has underrated kicks and knees, since he so often chooses to use his hands exclusively instead of showing off his diversity of techniques. In his most recent bout, Boku was knocked out with a slam by Christian Lee, which was beautifully set up off of a body lock and trip takedown. Boku is a well-rounded fighter who has struggled against good wrestlers and submission artists. As Boku comes closer to the end of his career, his striking skills have gotten better, but he’s physically slowed, which has led to him getting stunned in a few of his recent contests. However, his upcoming opponent hasn’t flashed the power necessary to offer much resistance should the fight remain standing.
Brazil’s Bruno Pucci has alternated wins and losses since joining the organization in 2013. The Evolve MMA instructor has won four of his seven fights under the ONE banner, with six of those bouts ending inside of one round. Pucci, a two-time no-gi world champion, is a decorated Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt with five wins by way of submission in his six overall pro wins. The 28-year-old is still improving his striking with the Singapore-based gym, though. The bread and butter of his game is his top-game grappling, which he displayed when he easily dominated inferior grapplers Xie Chao, Anthony Engelen, Bashir Ahmad and Jimmy Yabo.
Pucci has mostly been matched up against strikers in his promotional career, which has led to him getting the easy victory once the fight hits the floor. However, he has been brutally stopped with strikes, like in his bout against Nuerdebieke Bahetihan, who knocked him out with a counter right hook in a mere eight seconds. Just two fights ago, he was out-gunned by fellow grappler Emilio Urrutia. Pucci looked stiff and slow, and he was downright foolish when trying to fend off Urrutia. Pucci ate jabs, counter rights, and plenty of hooks, including the finishing combination, which was a right hook to the body, followed by a left hand and a right hook.
This fight will come down to the boxing and low kicks of Boku against the takedowns and submission offense of Pucci. Whoever can control where this fight takes place will eventually be crowned the winner, which is why this should be an exciting fight with the potential for a big finish.
|Main Card (ONE Championship App)|
|StrawW (125-pound) Championship: Joshua Pacio vs. Yosuke Saruta||Pacio|
|Muay Thai (FlyW): Alexi Serepisos vs. Mongkolpetch Petchyindee Academy||Mongkolpetch|
|FW: Christian Lee vs. Edward Kelly||Lee|
|Women’s AtomW: Priscilla Gaol vs. Puja Tomar||Gaol|
|Muay Thai (FlyW): Joseph Lasiri vs. Jonathan Haggerty||Lasiri|
|StrawW: Stefer Rahardian vs. Robin Catalan||Rahardian|
|FW: Bruno Pucci vs. Kotetsu Boku||Boku|
|Preliminary Card (Facebook/Twitter: ONE Championship)|
|FW: Anthony Engelen vs. Won Il Kwon||Engelen|
|LW: Rasul Yakhyaev vs. Koji Ando||Ando|
|Catchweight (150 pounds): Sunoto Peringkat vs. Niu Kang Kang||Sunoto|
|StrawW: Adi Paryanto vs. Aziz Calim||Calim|
|FW: Oscar Yaqut vs. Andreas Satyawan||Satyawan|