The men’s strawweight division doesn’t get much attention in the sport of MMA. Even the most dedicated UFC fan probably couldn’t name one competitor in the division. In its most prominent home under the ONE Championship banner, the division is faced with an identity crisis due to the league’s unique weigh-in system.
Yet, those interested in learning more about the division and its best fighters need look no further than ONE’s latest event, dubbed “Fire and Fury.” In any other league, champion Joshua Pacio and challenger Alex Silva would tilt the scales at 115 pounds. Given ONE’s focus on fighter safety, they actually check in at roughly 125 pounds. Either way, they remain the upper echelon of the strawweight division. On Friday, they face off to see who truly is the best.
The strawweight title fight caps off a card that takes place in the Philippines and features a handful of the country’s stars beyond just Pacio. Eduard Folayang takes part in the co-headliner, where he’ll meet late-replacement foe Pieter Buist. Danny Kingad also graces the main card and meets China’s Wei Xie. Gina Iniong, Jomary Torres and Lito Adiwang will also have the crowd on their side when they take to the circular cage.
In addition to MMA action, the lineup includes several Muay Thai contests, including a main-card affair between Petchdam Petchyindee Academy and Momotaro. On the prelims, Alma Juniku meets Anna Line Hogstad and Rodlek PK.Saenchaimuaythaigym seeks to extend his current winning streak in a fight against Scotland’s Chris Shaw.
ONE Championship heads to the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila for this show. The action kicks off at 6 a.m. ET on Friday and can be seen via the ONE Championship app.
Joshua Pacio and Alex Silva square off for Pacio’s strawweight title in the main event. Despite both men residing near the top of the strawweight mountain for a few years now, this is their first time meeting in the cage. Who will prove to be the better man?
It is something of a surprise that Pacio and Silva have yet to clash. They both have long histories with the ONE organization and plenty of common opponents from the elite tier of the strawweight class. Pacio has split a pair of fights with Yoshitaka Naito; Silva won just one of a trilogy of bouts with Naito. Both men have lost to Yosuke Saruta, but only Pacio avenged his defeat. Both warriors hold victories over multiple members of the Catalan family. They’ve also clashed with Hayato Suzuki, albeit with different results — Pacio lost, whereas Silva won. They’ve also each held the title they’ll compete for this weekend. With all of these common foes and a shared weight class, how have these two fighters avoided each other until now?
Pacio’s the top dog for the moment. The 24-year-old Team Lakay product debuted in 2013 and streak out to an 11-0 start before challenging Naito for the crown. He lost to the Japanese fighter via submission, but a 4-1 stretch earned him a second shot. This time, Pacio was victorious. He turned around and lost the strap to Saruta, only to claim it back three months later. His only successful defense thus far came in November when he submitted Rene Catalan.
Silva, who debuted in 2011, ran up a 6-1 record before his own challenge of Naito. He became the first man to defeat the Japanese fighter, but he dropped a split verdict — and the title — in their immediate rematch. It turned out to be the first loss in a three-fight skid that included an additional loss to Naito and a setback against Saruta. The Singapore-based Brazilian has since rebounded with two submission wins to earn his second title shot.
Pacio’s probably the more rounded fighter. His Evolve MMA opponent is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion who has notched eight of his wins via tapout while failing to record even a single knockout. Pacio, meanwhile, has six knockouts to accompany nine submission wins. The Filipino fighter is ridiculously slippery when taken down and can scramble with the best of them. On top, he’ll unleash a vicious ground-and-pound attack to set up a choke or armbar submission. He’s also amazingly aware, as he demonstrated with an inverted kimura against Pongsiri Mitsatit.
Remember the classic first meeting between flyweights Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson and Ian McCall in the UFC? This fight has the potential to reach that level if it’s contested on the mat. Silva is an elite grappler who can find submissions off his back, and he’s never been submitted in MMA competition. Pacio won’t make it easy on him, and the scrambles between the two could make this into just as close of a fight as that majority draw between Johnson and McCall. Pacio’s edge on the feet could be the difference here in a fun fight that might just go the distance.
Who is Pieter Buist, and should ONE fans have an eye on this guy?
This is a valid question, especially given Buist’s late entry onto this card as Eduard Folayang’s new opponent. Folayang, a former lightweight champion with the promotion, was initially set to meet Ahmed Mujtaba, but Mujtaba followed up two 2019 bout withdrawals with a withdrawal from his first fight of the new year. Buist has seized a great opportunity on the heels of two big wins on the ONE prelim card.
This is why he’s flown somewhat under the radar. The Dutch fighter has only made two ONE appearances total, and both came much further down the lineup than his upcoming co-headlining affair. “The Archangel” smashed Kota Shimoishi with knees for a finish in May, and he followed it up by becoming the first man to hand fellow prospect Tony Caruso a pro loss.
Of course, Shimoishi was already on a three-fight skid when he fell to Buist, and Caruso was making his own ONE debut. So, what came before these wins for the Dutchman? Mostly, it was a parade of low-level competition. When he stepped up to face someone tougher, the results hardly ever went his way. Early in his career, he suffered losses to a 4-2 fighter and an undefeated seven-fight veteran. His subsequent two defeats came to journeyman Tommy Depret and Kunlun regular Haotian Wu.
Perhaps Buist has turned a corner, but it’ll take a win over Folayang to make believers out of most in the MMA world. His biggest advantage could be the short notice at which he steps into this fight. Folayang was preparing for a less experienced fighter who had been out of action for nearly two years and had yet to face anyone near the level of the Filipino star. Now, Folayang has to contend with a 20-fight veteran who’s riding a seven-fight winning streak.
Buist is unlikely to become a future titleholder or star for the promotion. It’s also a stretch to think he gets past Folayang. The Filipino fighter hasn’t been the biggest finisher, and size — he gives up seven inches in height to Buist — could play a factor in this one, but Folayang should be able to work his way to a decision nod.
The biggest Muay Thai fight on the card pits Petchdam Petchyindee Academy against Momotaro. Will Petchdam, the former ONE flyweight kickboxing titleholder, emerge with his hand raised?
Petchdam can be a slow starter at times, but opponents better look out once the southpaw finds his groove. He can take over a fight with his powerful punches and kicks to the body. With more than 100 fights under his belt, it’s hard to believe that the former ONE kingpin and Lumpinee Stadium champ is just 22 years old.
Petchdam’s potential for a slow start seems more prominent under kickboxing rules, but any sluggishness out of the gates could hurt him dearly against Momotaro. The Japanese fighter already starched one Muay Thai great, Singtongnoi Por Telakun, with a 41-second finish and could find another against Petchdam, who was tagged early and often by Elias Mahmoudi and dropped for a loss by Ilias Ennahachi. However, Momotaro relies heavily on flashy and unexpected techniques then he does on power. As long as Petchdam doesn’t walk into a flying knee or a spinning back fist, he should be fine.
This fight is likely to play out a lot like Momotaro’s encounter with Lerdsila last April. The Japanese fighter tends to fight long, but Lerdsila was able to overcome Momotaro’s reach and take the decision nod. It’ll be a points fight with some big moments, but Petchdam should do enough to take this one on the scorecards.
Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?
The Muay Thai prelim bout between Rodlek PK.Saenchaimuaythaigym and Chris Shaw.
Rodlek is a veteran of over 170 fights. He had a rough stretch in which he lost nine of 11 fights, including six straight. However, the 29-year-old is now on the rebound after back-to-back victories. Those wins came in his first two ONE outings and include a knockout finish of Scotland’s Andrew Miller in August.
Shaw, also a Scotsman, is out to avenge his countryman’s loss. The IMF Muay Thai champ has filled his record with knockouts, and he could be a threat to bring an early end to Rodlek’s evening.
This one’s probably not going to crown a title challenger, but it could be a fun fight.
MMA (StrawW Championship): Joshua Pacio vs. Alex Silva
MMA (LW): Eduard Folayang vs. Pieter Buist
MMA (FlyW): Danny Kingad vs. Xie Wei
Muay Thai (FlyW): Petchdam Petchyindee Academy vs. Momotaro
MMA (BW): Kwon Won Il vs. Shoko Sato
MMA (FlyW): Ivanildo Delfino vs. Tatsumitsu Wada
Muay Thai (Women’s AtomW): Alma Juniku vs. Anna Line Hogstad
MMA (StrawW): Lito Adiwang vs. Pongsiri Mitsatit
MMA (Women’s AtomW): Gina Iniong vs. Asha Roka
Muay Thai (BW): Rodlek PK.Saenchaimuaythaigym vs. Chris Shaw
MMA (Women’s AtomW): Jomary Torres vs. Jenny Huang
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