Punahele “Story Time” Soriano enters this fight after back-to-back losses against grapple-heavy and solid fighters. Professionally, the 29-year-old Hawaiian fighter is only 8-2 with five knockouts and two submission wins. Both losses have come via decisions.
Dalcha “Champion” Lungiambula will need to up his game quickly if he wants to live up to his nickname. Professionally, the 34-year-old middleweight is 11-4. However, in the UFC, Lungiambula is 2-3 and is riding a two-fight losing streak. Both of his wins are against fighters no longer with the promotion.
Punahele Soriano is one of the largest favorites on the Long Island card this week.
Soriano embodies what we’ve grown accustomed to from island fighters. Whether it be Hawaii, New Zealand, or Australia, they all seem to have a similar warrior-like style in the octagon. Soriano has dynamite in his fists and has no qualms about walking through shots to land his own. He will often walk forward, flat-footed but intelligently paced, pumping a jab out or holding a high guard. His goal is to create even the smallest of openings for his deadly left hand. Out of the southpaw stance, Soriano fires his left cross like a piston and lands it like a brick. His issue has been against primary grapplers, and his suspect 35% takedown defense is the reason for his losing streak.
That being said, Soriano has fought two guys with excellent entries and MMA grappling. When he faces a primary striker, Soriano’s speed, power, no-nonsense straight down the middle strikes, and granite chin have propelled him to emphatic victories. His takedown defense should continue to improve, he has the athleticism and natural strength to get up once down so an evolution in keeping it standing is a reasonable prediction.
Lungiambula, on paper, is a dangerous matchup. He, too, has fight-ending power and a nose for the finish. Additionally, Lungiambula is an accredited wrestler with the natural strength to drag opponents down even if his entry is initially stuffed. However, he has struggled to find consistent success in the UFC. In all of his losses, Lungiambula has struggled to maintain intelligent output. His striking style is, keeping with the island theme, like a volcano. He stands almost completely still and flat footed, occasionally throwing naked leg kicks, while keeping a high guard or Philly Shell. Then, once his opponent tries to strike through his guard, Lungiambula will go from dormant to active in an explosive blitz attack. He suddenly swings big looping power shots, looking to catch an exposed chin.
The issue he’s faced, though, is his opponents rarely stand on the center line after they strike. So, his straightforward blitz can often hit air. Further, Lungiambula has recently struggled against pressure fighters who can work his legs, compromise his base, and force him backward. Still, despite his flaws, Lungiambula has the ability to end the fight in an instant.
Lungiambula has not beaten anyone in the UFC near as good as Soriano. Soriano will be faster, more technical, have higher volume, and land with more accuracy. Meanwhile, I don’t anticipate Lungiambula being able to wrestle, he doesn’t have the MMA grappling prowess necessary to take and keep Soriano down. Further, while Lungiambula has solid power, Soriano has a reliable chin, even with Lungiambula’s power. Put simply, Soriano is a level above here. I prefer Soriano in parlays but as a straight play, I like him to exhaust Lungiambula early and finish him late.
Prediction: Soriano to win via KO/TKO (+130 odds at MyBookie)
Michael Pounders is a high school English Teacher, a boxer himself, and is a fan who loves, gambles on, and nerds out about all things MMA.