Late substitute subdues younger Pinoy champ
Joey Villar (The Philippine Star) - January 21, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Japanese challenger Yosuke Saruta promised nothing less than a victory against Filipino champion Joshua Pacio in their strawweight title bout in ONE Championship.

He delivered one.

Drawing strength from his superior ground and pound game, the 31-year-old Saruta pulled the rug from under the 23-year-old Pacio to snare a split decision victory and crown himself new division champion in ONE: Eternal Glory at the Istora Senayan in Jakarta, Indonesia late Saturday.

It was Saruta’s 19th win with three draws against eight defeats while sending Pacio to his third setback against 13 triumphs.

Most impressively for Saruta, he gamely took the fight as a replacement for countryman Hayato Suzuki in one month’s notice and delivered an electrifying performance to shock his much younger foe from Team Lakay.

It was Saruta’s relentless wrestling and grappling that unnerved Pacio, who landed some jarring blows and kicks but generally couldn’t do much damage and had no clear answer to the Japanese game plan on bringing the battle down to the mat.

That cost Pacio the duel and the title he took when he shocked Japan’s Yoshitaka Naito via unanimous decision in ONE Conquest of Heroes last September.

The defeat also left the Philippines one champion less in ONE’s roster of champions, leaving Brandon Vera (heavyweight), Eduard Folayang (light), Kevin Belongon (bantam) and Geje Eustaquio (fly) to carry the fight for the Filipinos.

Pacio  may have to stay out of the ring for a while to rest   and ponder his next move before he could climb his way back to the top.

Filipino Edward Kelly likewise suffered a painful loss as he went down in the first round to Singapore’s Christian Lee.

Robin Catalan prevented a Phl shutout as he bested Indonesia’s Stefer Rahardian to win by unanimous decision.

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