Punahele Soriano passed the first serious test of his mixed martial arts career, and he was rewarded for his efforts.
The Xtreme Couture middleweight on Tuesday remained unbeaten and laid claim to a unanimous verdict over Jamie Pickett, as Dana White’s Contender Series kicked off its third season at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. All three judges cast scorecards for Soriano (6-0): 30-27, 30-27 and 30-26. Afterward, the Hawaiian received an Ultimate Fighting Championship contract.
Pickett (7-4) had his moments, but they were too few and far between to matter. Soriano had the North Carolinian reeling late in the first round, where he cut loose with a wave of power punches and appeared to have a finish in sight. Pickett survived and extended the match, forcing his Hawaiian counterpart to work harder than he wanted. Soriano struck for a takedown in Round 3, shut down a kimura attempt and settled in top position with some effective ground-and-pound.
Soriano was one of two competitors to get job offers from the UFC. Regiment Training Center export Yorgan De Castro was the other, as he kept his perfect professional record intact and put away Sanford Alton Meeks with a leg kick and follow-up punches in the first round of their heavyweight showcase. A former linebacker at Iowa State University, Meeks (1-1) bowed out 4:45 into Round 1.
De Castro (4-0) conceded a few takedowns but refused to be corralled on the mat. Meeks grew frustrated with his inability to retain a dominant position and appeared to tire at the midway point of the round. De Castro backed him to the fence and buried his shin into the muscle just above his opponent’s left knee. Meeks hit the deck and did not protect himself from the hammerfists that followed.
Meanwhile, Alliance MMA representative Brendan Loughnane won for the 12th time in 14 appearances, as he took a unanimous decision from former Cage Fury Fighting Championships and Ring of Combat titleholder Bill Algeo in a three-round featherweight feature. All three cageside judges scored it the same: 30-27 for Loughnane (17-3).
Algeo (11-4) struggled to get out of neutral. Loughnane punished him with leg kicks, mixed in a potent jab and countered effectively. He did his best work in Round 3, where he overwhelmed Algeo with aggression and volume. Jabs, body kicks and clean two-punch combinations all connected, leaving no doubt as to where the judges were headed.
The loss snapped a three-fight winning streak for Algeo.
Finally, stellar lateral movement and damaging combinations carried Fusion X-cel Performance prospect Hannah Goldy to a unanimous decision over Invicta Fighting Championships veteran Kali Robbins in a featured battle at 115 pounds. Goldy (2-0) swept the scorecards with 30-27, 30-27 and 30-26 nods from the judges.
Robbins (6-3) spent the majority of the time chasing her elusive counterpart. Goldy blasted her with kicks to the legs, body and head, clinch knees, standing elbows and two-, three- and four-punch combos. The 27-year-old Vermont native denied Robbins’ bid for a kneebar late in the second round and found another gear in the third. During one sequence, Goldy followed a leg kick with a three-punch volley before punctuating the burst of offense with a head kick.
The 34-year-old Robbins has lost three of her last four fights.