Former ONE strawweight MMA world champion Joshua Pacio had critics to answer in his return to action at ONE Fight Night 15 this past weekend, and his opponent was no slouch.

“The Passion” stopped Mansur Malachiev’s 11-fight winning streak to give the Russian his first taste of defeat this past Saturday, October 7, in Bangkok, Thailand’s famed Lumpinee Boxing Stadium.

The battle saw the strawweight stars go all three rounds, leaving the judges with a difficult decision to make when it came to an end. Ultimately, they handed the unanimous decision win to Pacio, which saw him return to the winner’s column after losing the world title to Jarred Brooks in his last outing in December 2022.

“The Passion” reviewed his performance after the fight and identified key areas that earned him the win. Malachiev’s grappling prowess was always going to be a problem, and the Filipino star credited the lessons he learned against former state wrestling champion Brooks for helping him overcome it.

“Yes, of course. You know, I was throwing heavy shots, and I think it’s the damage category (where I won). Yes, he took me down, but he didn’t damage me from my guard,” Pacio commented.

“And like what I said, Jarred Brooks is heavier from the top position. So I was confident going into the guard game or on the ground. But, of course, the punches, he caught me with an awesome punch (on the left side of my face).”

Pacio’s return to action was one that fans had been anticipating for quite some time. And having gotten back to winning ways, he made it clear that he wants to avenge his loss to Brooks as soon as possible.

That said, as an athlete constantly trying to perfect his craft, the 27-year-old would also be open to taking on another top contender in the strawweight MMA ranks.

He wasn’t pleased with his performance against Malachiev overall, so he’d like a chance to sharpen his weapons further before going for the world title.

“I think so. But honestly, I’m not impressed with my performance right now. I need to go to the gym again and work harder, you know? I was not relaxed. I was concentrated on throwing the power shots because I saw the damage. And I was eager to throw power shots,” Pacio reflected.

“So it really got in my head – to finish him. But that’s not how it was supposed to happen. I should have been more relaxed and thrown my combinations more confidently. If they give me Jarred Brooks, I’ll grab it. Like what I’ve said, if they give me Bokang (Masunyane,) or someone else in the top five, I’ll still grab it.”