Heading into Saturday evening, the biggest question facing 21-year-old Joshua Pacio was how he would respond after suffering his first career loss five months ago. Would he crumble like many before him, or would he become a better fighter because of it?
If that were not enough of an obstacle, the fighter standing in front of him was Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke, who was making his comeback attempt after dropping the ONE Strawweight World Championship to Yoshitaka Naito last May. And Pacio was facing the former champion in front of 11,000 Thais at the Impact Arena in Bangkok, the home court of DSA.
Once the bell rung, both fighters figured in a war. Wills were tested as the two slugged it out, with the Baguio native willingly striking against the decorated Muay Thai artist.
“It was a tough fight against DSA. I was expecting it because he is a former champion in Muay Thai and a world champion in MMA. You cannot deny that he has a heart of a true warrior,” the five-foot strawweight said.
“All things went according to plan in the first two rounds of the bout. He is a dangerous striker, that’s why I consistently looked to score takedown. I tried my best to pacify him on the ground. I can say that he did his homework for our fight. He showed significant improvement in his ground game,” the Team Lakay product furthered.
With the fight reaching a third and final round, the two fighters were gassed. DSA, who is 17 years older than Pacio, was able to find an extra gear — probably from the push of having the entire crowd rooting for him.
“I had the same plan in the third round, but I was surprised that he managed to get his second wind.
“Yes, he got me a couple of times but I trained for that. I was ready for worst case scenarios,” the former number one contender admitted.
And after 15 minutes, both men knew that they had gone through a war. Once the scorecards were read, two of the three judges awarded the fight to Pacio, putting emphasis on the work he did during the first two rounds.
With his back against the wall, he was able to survive one of the biggest tests he has faced in his young career. But he knows that there is still a lot he can improve on, especially after that third round.
“There [is] still a lot to learn.
“Yes, I am happy that I was able to win over a former champion like DSA and survived a grueling third round against him,” said Pacio, who is just in his fourth year as a pro.
But for Pacio, the war that he went through proved that he is worthy of being granted another title shot.
“Of course, I am looking forward to a rematch with Yoshitaka Naito. I almost won the title last October. One mistake took it all away from me,” he furthered.
“With the loss to Naito and the win over DSA, it has molded me into a better competitor.”