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Joshua Pacio excited for Brooks vs. Masunyane world title eliminator: 'We'll see who’s next for me'

ONE strawweight world Joshua Pacio predicts the No. 1 contender Bokang Masunyane vs. Jarred Brooks fight at 'ONE: Eersel vs. Sadikovic.'

The next challenger for Joshua Pacio's ONE strawweight world title will likely be decided on the main card of "ONE: Eersel vs. Sadikovic."

On Friday, April 22, No. 1-ranked contender Bokang Masunyane (8-0) will face No. 2-ranked Jarred Brooks (18-2) in an MMA matchup that will prove who deserves to compete for "The Passion's" golden belt.

The reigning king from Team Lakay acknowledges that both athletes are formidable martial artists, and just like fans around the world, he can’t wait to see how things play out.

"Of course I'm excited. We know how explosive these athletes are," Pacio said. "They are both coming from wrestling backgrounds, so it's exciting to see how this will unfold. Now we'll see who's next for me." 

Given his status atop the strawweight division, "The Passion" keeps his eyes on any potential challengers who rise through the ranks.

And when it comes to the upcoming world title eliminator, he sees a path to victory for each contender at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

Lito (Adiwang) felt like Brooks was slowing down in the second (of their bout, which Brooks won by submission). For me, if Bokang weathers the storm in the first round, he’ll be in a good spot," the Filipino said. "I'm not saying Brooks will gas out because he’' always well-prepared, but I feel like Bokang can control the second and third round.  

“(For Brooks), just keep the pressure on from rounds one to three – basically the same tactic that he did against (No. 4 contender Hiroba) Minowa. One advantage that Brooks has is his experience. He's been competing at the top level for the longest time. Bokang is top-level as well, but Brooks' experience in competing there for a long time is his edge."

Pacio favors Brooks in battle against Masunyane

While the reigning ONE strawweight world champion Pacio (20-3) expects a gritty, tight contest between No. 2 contender Brooks and No. 1-ranked Masunyane, he sees a slight favorite in their highly-anticipated showdown.

Pacio thinks "The Monkey God" – who has an 18-2 career record compared to Masunyane's 8-0 mark – will emerge victorious on April 22, especially after watching his performances against Minowa and Adiwang.

"For me, Brooks has been more impressive," the 26-year-old said. "He faced two top-five contenders and beat them, but I’m not discounting the fact that Bokang beat Rene (Catalan) when he was still in the rankings, and he knocked him out quickly.

“This is hard, but I'm looking at the experience of Brooks, and given that it's only a three-rounder, I'm siding more with Brooks by decision, mainly because of that experience.  

"Both guys are amazing, and they have the ability to finish anyone, but I think this one's headed to a decision. They come from the same background, and I expect this to be a grind in the wrestling department."

"The Passion" has no problem talking up both top contenders, but he won't back down when it’s time to duel.

And while Masunyane and Brooks have both stated that a victory next week would establish them as the division's best fighter – Pacio included – the world champion wants to remind them that he didn’t reach the top by accident.

"If I face Brooks now, he'll be one of my toughest fights, but I'm a champion for a reason," he added. "If they want to take the belt, it's not going to be a walk in the park. I've worked hard for this, my team has worked hard for this, so I'm not going to give this up easily."

This story first published at ONEFC.com.