Team Lakay goes back to drawing board after losing PH's last MMA title

As soon as Team Lakay went back to Benguet after ONE: 164 last Saturday, Dec. 3, the first assignment that head coach Mark Sangiao had in mind is to go back to the drawing board as only two of its five warriors took home victories at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

Joshua Pacio (center) listens to the instructions given by Team Lakay head coach Mark Sangiao (left) during his title defense against Jarred Brooks in ONE: 164 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City last Saturday, Dec. 3. (ONE Championship)

While Jhanlo Sangiao, Mark's son, and Jeremy Pacatiw earned twin statement wins against Anacleto Lauro and Tial Thang, respectively, the Philippines hit a huge blow after Joshua Pacio lost the ONE strawweight title after absorbing a unanimous decision loss to Jarred Brooks.

This left the Philippines without any mixed martial arts champion left as Brooks ended Pacio's three-year reign in the strawweight division.

For the older Sangiao though, these kinds of setbacks are not new for Team Lakay. A serious re-evaluation, however, is a must for the famed Igorot warriors.

"I think we have to sit down later and talk about our lapses again," said Sangiao in a post-match press conference. "Because in every competition or every loss, there's a consequence. We have mistakes and we have to discuss those mistakes later on and try to improve again.

"As we have said again, we, in Team Lakay, we always learn... that's always what I'm telling to our athletes -- to keep working hard. Work smart and work hard," added the Team Lakay patriarch.

Aside from its own evaluation of Team Lakay, ONE Championship CEO and chairman Chatri Sityodtong bared that he also needs to talk with Sangiao over a few concerns regarding their losses, specifically on Eduard Folayang, who suffered a first-round knockout against Edson Marques.

Though Sityodtong believes that it was an early stoppage, the ONE honcho said "I'm a little concerned" if Folayang doesn't change his fighting style to which the Team Lakay head coach actually agreed.

That said, Team Lakay, a team who once owned four ONE world titles, is facing a big challenge ahead and in the next few years, creating a new storyline for their redemption.

A huge chunk of that winning culture would have to be credited to the veterans in Folayang, Kevin Belingon, and Geje Eustaquio, among others, but the so-called "new generation" will also have to be up for the task.

But the defeat of Pacio, who is the face of that new generation being the former champion, speaks volumes on how Team Lakay should take action given the situation. Even Sangiao believed that Pacio will win against Brooks, but it did not materialize.

Aside from Pacio and Folayang, Eustaquio, Jenelyn Olsim, and Adonis Sevilleno all absorbed their respective losses.

Eustaquio got knocked out by Hu Yong in the first round, Olsim suffered the same fate against Meng Bo, and Sevilleno fell short against Drex Zamboanga (unanimous decision)

As for its seniors, Sangiao said it will be up to them if they still want to push through. After all, they were once champions who suffered many ups and downs in their careers.

"That depends on them if they still have the fire, the patience, and everything that a champion needs," said Sangiao. "Because once in their lives, they became champions. If they want to become champions they know the secret ."