Photo from ONE Championship
MANILA, Philippines – As Japanese fighter Yoshitaka Naito faces a highly touted opponent with an extensive striking background, the reigning ONE Championship strawweight titleholder looks to fully utilize his topnotch ground game against Filipino prospect Joshua Pacio.
Both men are set to collide in the main event of ONE Championship’s “State of Warriors” card, which takes place at the Thuwanna Indoor Stadium in Yangon, Myanmar, on October 7.
According to Naito, he would not risk to stand and bang with Pacio, who has a well regarded Wushu Sanshou pedigree.
"I'm a grappler and I prefer a ground fight. I will go against him believing that my grappling is better. I just hope that the fight will proceed in my pace," Naito told Rappler through a translator.
The 32-year-old Japanese is undefeated in 11 professional outings and has won 5 of it by way of submission.
Naito captured the ONE Championship strawweight belt by defeating Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke via fourth-round submission last May.
Prior to his stint in the Singapore-based mixed martial arts organization, Naito was a staple of the Japanese promotion Shooto, where he had 10 bouts in his 3-year tenure and once held the company’s flyweight title.
"I will try my best to show my techniques in the cage. I promise to show my absolute best grappling,” Naito said.
Although he is coming into the 5-round championship clash as the more experienced combatant, Naito refuses to be complacent against Pacio, who is also riding high on his own unbeaten streak with 8 pro matches.
"I will try my best to put on a great fight. My opponent is young, but he is undefeated so I'm sure he's strong. There is no advantage or disadvantage. It is another clash between two undefeated fighters," Naito said.
Pacio is not worried if he has to enter the submission wheelhouse of Naito as the 20-year-old Baguio City native is confident that he could match the Japanese’s grappling arsenal.
“Naito is world-class athlete. He is no pushover. I know he has a high-caliber ground game, but I believe I can cope up with his grappling,” Pacio asserted.
Pacio has yet to go the distance in his 3-year prizefighting career, hauling 5 submission victories and 3 knockout triumphs.
The young Team Lakay standout believes that fighting within his comfort zone will give him a better chance of walking out with the gold-plated strap around his waist.
“Naito will be the biggest challenge of my career. I added more work to my wrestling. But if he wants to exchange strikes with me, I will be happy to accommodate him,” Pacio said. – Rappler.com