At the Xtreme Couture Mixed Martial Arts gym in Las Vegas, Nevada, there is little doubt as to who the captain of the team is, with Hilo’s Brad Tavares having just successfully competed in his 20th career UFC fight, a victory which was his 14th in the organization.
This weekend though, it’s one of his proudest protégés that will enter the octagon as fellow Hawaii born middleweight Punahele Soriano will make his return to the octagon.
The undefeated 28 year old will face off with Brendan Allen in the main event of the UFC on ESPN 27 preliminary card in Las Vegas this Saturday, providing Punahele a chance to continue his pursuit at the promotional rankings.
“I feel great, I feel ready. This is what I’ve been working for, this is what I want to do. I’ve put a lot into this and I got great people around me. Now it’s time to just go out there and do what I love to do,” Soriano told KHON2 Sports Director Rob DeMello during his final workout before checking into his hotel ahead of fight week duties with the UFC.
This past January, Soriano returned from a year off dealing with injuries by delivering a statement making opening round knockout of Dusko Todorovic in Abu Dhabi which took the Waialua native to 8-0, with seven of those wins coming by opening round knockout or submission.
“Everyday that I train I have that in my head, I’m working everyday to finish this guy. That’s what I train for. I train to put people away. I don’t fight for a decision. I fight to finish people.”
“I feel like I’m a mystery. People don’t really know what else there is. People just see the heavy hands, see the finishes and they don’t really understand why or how I feel like. There’s a lot more going into it than people think. I feel like I use my wrestling to keep the fight on my feet to put people out but it gives me a lot of confidence. People just don’t know what I can do.”
For Soriano, Saturday’s bout serves as a career milestone as he will close the prelims on ESPN, which provides a glimpse of what the UFC thinks of the heavy handed wrestler who remains motivated to prove that he’s not a one trick pony. Although the marketing in Soriano will paint a picture of being a knockout artist, he’s eager to showcase how well rounded of a martial artist he is if given the chance.
“It’s a big milestone and I appreciate the opportunity that they’ve given me but I don’t really think about it. I just focus on finishing Brendan and that’s all I really focus on. I could be the first fight, I’ve been the first fight before and it doesn’t change anything. I’m there to finish people,” Soriano said.
Soriano is one of five Hawaii born Xtreme Couture members currently under UFC contracts with a handful more on the rise. Soriano’s UFC on ESPN 27 showdown against Allen is set for Saturday at 10:00 am HST on ESPN.