Brace yourselves, as we have a high-powered middleweight matchup headed our way inside of the intimate confines of the UFC Apex. Punahele Soriano, 9-2, 30 years of age, fighting out of Xtreme Couture, takes on Roman Kopylov, 9-2, 31 years of age, who is making his first trip to compete in the United States of America. Be prepared for the mettle to be tested when these two 185lb southpaws lock horns. Let’s take a deeper look into one of the more exciting main card matchups at UFC Vegas 67.
Do not let the looks fool you. Roman Kopylov is not a giant version of Chase Hooper. Kopylov arrived on the UFC roster in 2019 with a wealth of international experience in the Fight Nights Global promotion. Although Kopylov does not possess a dangerous ground game, he does hold a Master of Sport in hand-to-hand combat, and brings with him crisp technical striking and fluid movement. Surprisingly, he’s the older fighter in this matchup vs Soriano. Kopylov has looked formidable in moments, though has dealt with energy regulation issues in many of his bouts after upping the output, as evidenced by recent performances vs Albert Duraev and Alessio Di Chirico. We’ve also seen Kopylov struggle on the mat in numerous bouts after being taken down. A startling moment that comes to mind in particular is his submission loss to Karl Roberson on home turf. It must be noted that Kopylov will have a 2.5” reach advantage in this matchup, and will need to be on point if he is to have success vs a dangerous Hawaiian brawler in Soriano.
Punahele Soriano has experienced a number of character building experiences in his young career under the bright lights, and appears to be on the rise at Xtreme Couture. Although we’ve seen Soriano struggle with his own energy regulation issues at times, running on fumes during his Contender Series debut in 2019 as an example, he has improved significantly in that realm by picking his sports to explode. Soriano can be a bit of a marauder, and is able to mix up his game with striking and wrestling. Soriano possesses legitimate wrestling credentials, and has put them to use at times in a win vs Piechota and a loss to Maximov. The grappling threat will be something for Kopylov to worry about, as Soriano will likely be the one moving forward in constant pursuit of his opponent. A few other variables Kopylov must be concerned with are Soriano’s ability to close distance to deliver power strikes as well as Soriano’s durability. It will take something special for Kopylov to finish Soriano on the feet.
Although Punahele Soriano isn’t the tactician that Kopylov is in this specific matchup, he will likely do enough to force the action and crack the Russian fighter at some point, maximizing his moments. Kopylov has faced adversity in a number of bouts, and taken significant damage from far lesser power punchers than Soriano. We must also consider that although we’ve seen Punahele Soriano get picked apart and tee’d off on by Brendan Allen in what was the first professional loss of his career, he kept moving forward and came on late in that bout. I believe we’ll see Soriano keep the pressure on Kopylov, and this may ultimately pay dividends. Some say pressure breaks pipes, while others say pressure makes diamonds. We’ll find out on Saturday night.
My pick is Punahele Soriano to win in this matchup. Although he may be outmatched from a technical striking and movement perspective, the pressure, durability, power, and wrestling threat will likely be what sets himself apart here. Add in Kopylov fighting inside of the United States for the first time as well as the small sized Octagon at the UFC Apex, and I’ve got to roll with Punahele Soriano.
The play is 1U Punahele Soriano Scorecards = No Action. Finish Only at -175.