May 23, 2024

Team Lakay’s Joshua Pacio remains the only Filipino mixed martial arts world champion in ONE Championship, the biggest MMA promotion in Asia.

This after Brandon Vera lost his ONE heavyweight belt to Arjan Bhullar, who became the first Indian MMA world champion in history during their bout in Singapore on weekend.

The Indian star stifled Vera with feints and strikes, freezing the Filipino-American on his feet and making him hesitant to engage. Bhullar took Vera down toward the end of the opening frame and controlled him on the mat.

In the second round, Bhullar capitalized on his feints by catching Vera with an overhand right that sent him reeling toward the circle wall. A few more right hands compounded the damage, and a debilitating body shot had Vera gasping for air.

Once the Indian fighter closed the distance and latch onto the defending world champion with a body lock, it signaled the beginning of the end. Bhullar brought Vera to the mat and pounded him out for the technical knockout victory.

The TKO victory ended Vera’s close to 2,000 days reign as a champion after winning the belt on Dec. 11, 2015.

The Team Lakay camp, meanwhile, is confident the 24-year-old Pacio will retain his strawweight belt he won for the second time on April 12, 2019.

Pacio defeated fellow Filipino fighter Rene Catalan in his first title defense in November 2019, sustaining his winning streak by defeating challenger Alex Silva in January.

The year 2018 was a historic campaign when five Filipino fighters, including Pacio and Vera, held ONE world MMA belts.

The other world champions that year were Kevin Belingon in the bantamweight, Eduard Folayang in the lightweight, and Geje Eustaquio in the flyweight.

At present, Danny Kingad is the top contender against reigning ONE flyweight world champion Adriano Moraes. – Harley F. Palangchao