Both Joshua Pacio and Lito Adiwang are coming off big wins. The former probably secured himself a title show with the win over Mansur Malachiev at ONE Fight Night 15 last Saturday.
Adiwang isn’t in the top five but he did get back to winning ways with a quickfire stoppage victory over Adrian Mattheis at ONE Friday Fights 34. That was his first fight since undergoing surgery on a serious knee injury.
Pacio and Adiwang were training partners at Team Lakay. Both have subsequently departed with the former champion representing the newly formed Lion’s Nation MMA.
Adiwang has been fighting out of Hiit Studio in Bali although it isn’t clear if this is a permanent move. For the time being at least the two men do not appear to be teammates.
In an interview after his win Pacio was asked about fighting Adiwang. He didn’t sound particularly enthusiastic about the idea but said he would be willing to consider it,
“If it gets to a point where it’s for a title, if one of us is the champion and it’s for the Philippines, maybe.”
Former strawweight MMA king Joshua Pacio 🇵🇭 beats fifth-ranked Mansur Malachiev by unanimous decision! 👊
— ONE Championship (@ONEChampionship) October 7, 2023
Pacio was far too hesitant during the first fight with Jarred Brooks. He dropped a decision to the American at ONE 164 in Manila and clearly feels he could have done more.
That would turn out to be his final time representing Team Lakay. Pacio had promised to take a more aggressive approach to his match with Malachiev last weekend although he threatened more with submission attempts than strikes.
It seems this might be part of a a new strategy. When asked about the rematch with Brooks he hinted that he would be more well rounded,
“I’ll go out there and not be stagnant. I’ll be more relaxed and display more mixed martial arts.”
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Malachiev had confidently pronounced himself to be the best wrestler in the division ahead of the fight with Pacio. Having shared the ring with him for three rounds the Filipino clearly does not agree,
“Like I’ve said, Jarred Brooks is heavier in top position, so I was more confident going into my guard game on the ground (against Malachiev).”
While Malachiev was able to take Pacio down just like Brooks did he couldn’t capitalize, either with ground and pound or submission attempts. By contrast the Filipino was active from his back and says he had no doubt that the judges would see things his way,
“Yes of course. I was throwing heavy shots and I think I won in the damage category. He took me down, but he wasn’t doing much in my guard.”
Pacio has surely earned himself a rematch with the champion. But Adiwang beat one of the most experienced fighters in the division in 23 seconds and if both men continue winning they could be on a collision course.