Our main card begins with a clash of young and undefeated middleweights. Punahele Soriano is 7-0 with four knockouts and two submissions. In his UFC debut, he finished Oskar Piechota by knockout in the first round but has been inactive since that fight, which took place on the undercard of UFC 245 in December 2019.
Dusko Todorovic is 10-0, also with four knockouts and two submissions. Like Soriano, he got into the UFC with a win on the Contender Series and is 1-0 in the octagon, following his 2nd-round knockout of Dequan Townsend this past October. He’ll have a two-inch reach advantage in this fight.
Dusko Todorovic is a large man who throws everything into every punch. He throws heavy hooks and is looking to back his opponents into the fence, corner them in and throw bombs. He’s excellent in the clinch and can punish opponents along the fence with short knees and elbows. He throws big hooks on the break to follow.
Todorovic doesn’t make very good use of his jab, and doesn’t usually set up his combinations, he sort of just rushes in and throws them. He has good head movement but he has left himself open to some nasty counters. He has a tough chin and can negate striking onslaughts with his grappling.
Dusko has great level changes and is a dominant wrestler. He transitions with force, looking for mount and side control, where he can land elbows and hammer fists. Todorovic is a very well- rounded mixed martial artist overall.
The big concern when you watch Todorovic fight is the amount of damage he sustains against advanced strikers. He always has his grappling and clinch work to fall back on, but a style that would match up very well against him is a disciplined, counter-striking kick boxer who pops in and out of the pocket, preferably with some clinch grappling ability, or at least enough to break free.
Punahele Soriano meets some of these characteristics. He is a power striker, looking to set up his counter left hand. He has good striking speed, and he throws everything he has into his overhand left. He looks to keep his distance until he can counter-strike his way into the pocket, throwing hooks and uppercuts from his hips.
He mixes in kicks but there isn’t much variety to his striking. Like Todorovic, he doesn’t use his jab. He throws big shots in flurries when he gets the chance to. He was an all-American wrestler in college, but is primarily a striker in mixed martial arts. He does have excellent double leg takedowns.
He has some nasty ground and pound, but spends a lot of time securing control. His wrestling is very technical, but he is not very strong and can have trouble maintaining top control.
Defensively, Soriano relies on head movement, which sets up his counters, but gets him hit pretty often. These two fighters are very similar in a lot of ways, the biggest difference is between their two styles of grappling.
Soriano is a more traditional American schoolboy-style wrestler, looking to go for double leg takedowns, not spending a lot of time in the clinch. Todorovic dominates in the clinch before eventually getting the fight to the ground. The grappling battle is going to come down to strength, and Todorovic is the larger, stronger fighter.
This fight isn’t quite a 50/50 split, but it’s very close. I lean Todorovic’s way. He has the higher fight IQ between these two and is willing to win a boring clinch battle. These guys’ resumes make me want to give the under, or ITD a look, but they just aren’t safe plays considering Todorovic’s ability to slow the fight down with his grappling, and that ability is shared by Soriano, but we anticipate Todorovic controlling most of the grappling.
I like Todorovic as the slight favorite, but he’s not a sure thing. Soriano does not inspire enough confidence or offer enough value at +130 for me to call him a live dog.
I also just see this going Todorovic’s way whether its a striking battle, a wrestling match or a blend of styles. He’s a more well-rounded martial artist with a much better understanding of how to combine his skillsets, and a much higher fight IQ. I think both of these guys have holes in their games, making each fighter ripe to lose his respective “0.” But it’s going to take a specific style and skillset to beat Todorovic, and Soriano just doesn’t meet the criteria.