YANGON, Myanmar – A tough test awaits Yoshitaka Naito in his first defense of the ONE Championship strawweight title, but the Japanese fighter believes that he will be the roadblock to Joshua Pacio’s path to becoming a world titleholder in mixed martial arts (MMA).
Naito stakes his gold-plated strap against the highly-regarded Filipino prospect in the main event of ONE Championship’s “State of Warriors” card, which takes place at the Thuwanna Indoor Stadium in Yangon, Myanmar on Friday, October 7.
Pacio is being touted by numerous cageside observers as the most promising young fighter in the Philippine MMA scene today, owning an unblemished MMA record and winning his last 8 pro bouts by either knockout or submission.
2016 has already been an outstanding year for the 20-year-old Baguio City native as he made his successful ONE Championship debut in April by scoring a second-round technical knockout of fellow Pinoy Rabin Catalan before he submitted Thailand’s Kritsada Kongsrichai with a first-round rear-naked choke this past August.
Naito, who captured the ONE Championship strawweight belt after defeating Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke by way of fourth-round submission last May, stressed that his experience will play a pivotal role in trumping Pacio in their 5-round fight.
“My advantage coming into this fight is my experience. If you’re going to compare it with the fighters that he fought before, I’ve faced tougher ones. I also believe I’m the more technically-sound competitor than him,” he told Rappler.
Naito is unbeaten in 11 professional outings and was a staple of Japanese MMA promotion Shooto, where he had 10 bouts in his 3-year run.
In addition, the 32-year-old Japanese is no stranger to championship matches as he won the Shooto flyweight championship at the expense of compatriot Shinya Murofushi in September 2014 and then successfully defended the trinket twice.
Having a lengthy fight is also not new to Naito as he owns 5 decision victories and has already fought in two 5-round matches.
Knowing that Pacio has never gone the distance and it is his first world title tilt in his 3-year prizefighting career, Naito seeks to test his endurance.
“He has a bright future ahead of him, but this is a different territory for him. Meanwhile, I’m not new to this. I’ve been here before. If he’s looking to shock the world, not in our fight,” Naito stated.
With Pacio aiming to be the youngest Filipino MMA world champion in history, Naito values what he brings to the table against his Pinoy opponent as he is fully convinced that the ONE Championship strawweight title will be fastened around his waist once again.
“He knows what’s on the line. I also know what’s at stake in this fight. As a veteran of this sport, I know I can spoil the party. If I can execute my game plan perfectly, I will get the job done,” he said. – Rappler.com