One Championship's strawweight title will be on the line when Yoshitaka Naito and Joshua Pacio face off for the second time in their careers at ONE: Conquest of Heroes at the Jakarta Convention Centre in Indonesia.
The bout will headline a 12-fight card and will include two Super Series clashes and feature the anticipated return of Russian fighters Marat Gafurov and Timofey Nastyukhin.
It was in 2017 when Gafurov suffered his sole professional loss to Martin Nguyen, losing his featherweight belt, and after submitting Emilio Urrutia back in April will now want to begin positioning himself for a chance to reclaim his lost title.
Nastyukhin also finds himself chasing Nguyen as he continues his quest for a lightweight championship. Nguyen is booked to take on the winner of Ev Ting and Shinya Aoki in Tokyo next March, but the door is open for the next round of title challengers to stake their claim now in preparation for whoever holds the belt after Tokyo.
Earlier in the night, Indonesia's Priscilla Hertati Lumban Gaol will take on Jomary Torres of the Philippines in an atomweight clash to headline the preliminaries.
Strawweight Championship Yoshitaka Naito (13-1-0) vs. Joshua Pacio (12-2-0)
The Filipino Pacio's impressive first-round submission victory over Thailand's Pongsiri Mitsatit at July's ONE: Reign of Kings was good enough to earn the 22-year-old a second shot at the strawweight title. Pacio, who trains out of Team Lakay, fought for the belt in 2016 and was defeated by then and current champion Yoshitaka Naito (Japan) losing via rear-naked choke in the third round.
The fight was evenly matched going into the round with Pacio able to keep the fight standing, stuffing multiple takedowns from Naito in the process, during the first two stanzas. When competing against a fighter with the submission abilities of Naito, all it takes is a momentary lapse in concentration for a fighter to suddenly find themselves in seriously deep waters. Pacio found this out for himself at just over the one-minute mark of the round, after giving Naito a glimpse of his back all of the Filipino's good work went out the window. Naito pounced quickly, locked in the choke and forced Pacio to tap out within seconds of taking his back.
At 34 years of age Naito, who only started training in martial arts when he was 22, is currently in his athletic prime. The submission specialist suffered his first professional loss as a fighter following his bout with Pacio, to Alex Silva last December. Silva won the fight and took home the title via unanimous decision. The Brazilian's victory was built on a base of powerful leg kicks, for which Naito had no answer.
However, after going away and doing his homework a rejuvenated Naito returned five months later to take back the belt he had lost. In his rematch with Silva, Naito pushed forward more than he did in the first bout, consistently closing the distance and stifling Silva's kicking game. Naito…