Ex-Wartburg All-American Soriano earns UFC contract

Punahele Soriano, NCAA Division III All-American wrestler at Iowa's Wartburg College, secured a UFC contract with his impressive win on the Season 3 premiere of Dana White's Contender Series Tuesday night at UFC Apex in Las Vegas.

Punahele Soriano (Photo/Jeff Beshey, The Guillotine)
The 26-year-old Hawaiian native scored a unanimous decision in a three-round middleweight (185-pound) bout over Jamie Pickett, (30-27, 30-27, 30-26). It was the first time Soriano had a professional MMA fight go beyond the first round.

In the first round, Soriano came out strong as he usually does, but Pickett was able to survive the late barrage before the sound of the horn," according to "Soriano remained calm and calculated, using his wrestling to control the rest of the fight."

After the win, the former Wartburg Knight -- who earned All-America honors at the 2014 NCAAs by placing seventh in the 197-pound bracket -- Soriano expressed some concern whether he might not be selected by UFC president Dana White for a UFC contract.

"To be honest, yeah," Soriano said. "It's kind of what I was thinking."

A few minutes after Soriano's fight, though, White announced that he had chosen Soriano for a UFC contract, praising the former D3 mat star's ability to adjust his game plan and go the distance for the first time.

Soriano is now 6-0 in his pro career which started in January 2017 … and the owner of a UFC contract. His first UFC fight has yet to be scheduled.


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