Undefeated strawweight contender Bokang Masunyane called out reigning champion Joshua Pacio of Team Lakay after winning against Rene Catalan in ONE: Big Bang at the Singapore Indoor Stadium weeks ago.
The South African wrestler showed a different side of him that night, finishing Catalan in 37 seconds with a lethal left high kick.
The win gave him the confidence to challenge the champion after winning two straight times since his ONE Championship debut last year, even declaring himself as “the best in the division.”
“I’d like to challenge the champion. And if the champion is not ready, No. 1 or No. 2, I’m always ready. But I’ve got my eye on the title,” said the unranked Masunyane, who improved to an 8-0 record.
For Catalan, at least, hearing those words is just normal as a challenger. Losing to both men, Catalan, “The Challenger” himself, knew that it will be a duel between two young warriors should ONE Championship give the green light for that match.
Pacio currently leads the strawweight division, followed by Yosuke Saruta (No. 1), Yoshitaka Naito (No. 2), Catalan (No. 3), Alex Silva (No. 4), and Hiroba Minowa (No. 5).
“It’s going to be an explosive fight,” said the founder of Makati-based mixed martial arts stable Catalan Fighting System. “Si Bokang as in bata pa tapos mataas, high level ‘yung wrestling skills niya. Kung baga, ‘yung edad niya, pa-peak sa lakas like Pacio. ‘Di naman sila nagkakalayo [ng edad].”
Masunyane is 26 years old while Pacio will celebrate his 25th birthday next month. Over the years, Pacio, a well-known striker trained by multi-titled coach and former wushu sambo champion Mark Sangiao, has improved his grappling skills as well.
On his recent title defense against Silva, the Team Lakay stalwart showed his evolved ground game by going toe-to-toe with the Brazilian jiu-jitsu expert.
Pacio, the lone Filipino to land spots on ESPN’s Under-25 list and Black Belt Magazine’s top MMA fighters, won via split decision after their 25-minute showdown at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City in ONE: Fire & Fury last January.
The Igorot warrior, holding a 17-3 record, also submitted Catalan with a second-round arm-triangle choke in ONE: Masters of Fate last November 2019.
“Kung magkataon man, as in wala akong masa-side sa kanila. [Magiging] magandang laban ‘yun,” said the 42-year-old Catalan.