Punahele Soriano – UFC debut shows promise

Punahele Soriano's UFC debut
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - DECEMBER 14: Punahele Soriano celebrates after knocking out Oskar Piechota of Poland in their middleweight bout during the UFC 245 event at T-Mobile Arena on December 14, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Punahele Soriano‘s UFC debut went almost as well as one could hope for. Especially as he was one of MMASucka’s prospects to watch.  Winning by knockout, Soriano (7-0) showcased a willingness to throw heavy leather but managed to impress with the moments he chose his shots. Oskar Piechota (11-3-1) was an ideal opponent for Soriano in his first UFC showcase. Piechota is no joke, he has great credentials and skills but is also defensively flawed in ways that were ideal for someone like Soriano.

Punahele Soriano’s UFC debut started with a bang

The fight began with some single shots. What was impressive is that Soriano would choose to throw shots when Piechota came forward. Despite relative inexperience in kickboxing Soriano seems to understand the importance of range and the counter. Soriano managed to pressure forward and the Polish native attempted to clinch up. Soriano began winging shots over the top, hitting Piechota as he squared up to throw knees. After the first connection, Soriano began swarming eventually dropping Piechota with a follow up left hand.

The Hawaiian then managed to jump on top and committed to some ground and pound. Piechota managed to push Soriano at the hips with his legs and turtled up but ended up having his back taken. Things looked dire but Piechota was able to isolate an arm and use it to get his head out. Soriano then lost the left hook which allowed Piechota to roll out and escape the back mount.

Soriano had the power, Piechota had the slickness

Piechota threatened a kimura, into an omoplata, into a slick guillotine attempt all in service of sweeping Soriano. Transitioning from the guillotine to the front headlock, Piechota was able to land a knee before Soriano made himself a downed opponent. Piechota then tried to take his back but Soriano turned with his opponent and moved into a double leg. Soriano then transitioned into a body lock but Piechota threatened another kimura. Piechota fell to the ground to finish the kimura but Soriano escaped. Soriano gave Piechota space to get back to his feet.

Once they were back on their feet, Soriano began diving in with looping hooks. Soriano managed to crowd Piechota to the fence where he landed the knockout combination. Oskar Piechota is an excellent fighter but lacks basic defensive habits. These habits are generally, not moving his head, not keeping his hands up after he throws, and squaring up before he throws strikes. Piechota is also rarely aware of his positioning in the cage and appears allergic to forward pressure. These two things made it easy for Soriano to crowd him to the fence where he had fewer options of retreat. Piechota then made the damning decision to trade with Soriano with his back against the fence. The faster and more powerful fighter connected and Piechota went to sleep.

Punahele Soriano’s debut shows he might be a big thing, given time

Punahele Soriano’s UFC debut showed great promise and improvements to his game. While still wild and loopy, Soriano showed intelligence in where to throw his shots. This discipline is something undefeated fighters with a record consisting largely of first-round knockouts rarely have.

Soriano also showed surprising speed for a man his size. He might just be a problem in this division given time to grow and develop. That being said it would be interesting to see him fight someone with good straight hitting. The come-forward pressure of Soriano may struggle with someone who can intercept him. If he is able to alter his game to deal with someone like that we might just be seeing the next big thing.

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