Brooks defeats strawweight champion Pacio in ONE Championship

JOSHUA Pacio relinquished his strawweight title to American challenger Jarred Brooks, absorbing a unanimous decision loss as ONE Championship marked its Philippine comeback for ONE 164 after almost three years due to the pandemic.

Despite the jampacked Filipino crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena rallying behind him, the Team Lakay stalwart could not get the job done in his fourth title defense against a very aggressive Mr. Brooks, who ran away with the country’s only remaining world title.

Mr. Brooks, the 29-year-old grappler, relied on his timely striking paired with a series of takedown attempts that set the tone in the majority of the match as Mr. Pacio turned to a defensive fighter from his usual fiery attack game.

In anticipation of Mr. Brooks’ lethal ground game, Mr. Pacio was kept at bay and failed to land his usual power shots highlighted by a spinning kick miss in the fourth round that left an opening for Brooks to finally complete a takedown.

By then, the Michigan, USA native almost had the victory in his hands with a rear naked choke in the waning seconds but Mr. Pacio escaped after being saved by the bell.

It went the distance through five rounds with Mr. Brooks hoisting the belt as the new strawweight king that in the process capped a subpar campaign for Filipino fighters in ONE’s twinbill event.

“Much respect to Joshua Pacio and Team Lakay. I know I had some choice words, but I was just trying to make this fight as big as possible. I love the Filipino people. I know I’ve been the heel a lot but I’m a good person,” said the emotional Mr. Brooks, who improved to 20-2.

Only Jeremy Pacatiw (triange choke) and Jhanlo Mark Sangiao (rear naked choke) won from the Team Lakay stable as Eduard Folayang, Geje Eustaquio, Jenelyn Olsim and Adonis Sevilleno also suffered devastating defeats.

Other Philippine bets Denice Zamboanga, Drex Zamboanga and Jackie Buntan salvaged the country with big wins as Brandon “The Truth” Vera announced his retirement after a TKO loss to Iran’s Amir Aliakbari. — John Bryan Ulanday