Initially slated to face Hacran Dias, Tatsuya Kawajiri was left without an opponent when Dias bowed out of the fight with an injury in late November. Now, instead of getting a fighter already on the roster, the UFC has picked up another young prospect in Blackzilians' featherweight Sean Soriano.
At just 24 years of age, Soriano holds a 8-0 record fighting out of the South Florida super-camp, training alongside the likes of Alistair Overeem, Rashad Evans, Eddie Alvarez, and a host of other UFC fighters. Apart from his undefeated record, Soriano holds a strong finishing rate, with only 2 of his 8 opponents seeing the final bell. He's really only faced regional level talent thus far (other than handing Matthew Perry a beating) and it looks like his two decision wins have come against his stiffest opposition. His last fight, against Elvin Leon Brito, was for the CFA interim featherweight championship.
Watching him fight a few things strike me immediately: Soriano is probably the most obvious product of a Jorge Santiago led gym I've seen. He throws crushing leg kicks and tight, controlled hooks. He punches more on the counter than as an opening, choosing instead to close distance with heavy kicks to the leg and head. He keeps his hands high, but at times reminds me a bit of Overeem, in that he leaves big holes in his defense. On the ground he's incredibly aggressive and will look to move to mount or back control at any opportunity. This leaves him somewhat open to getting swept, but makes him very dangerous to more passive grapplers. I'm not sure of his takedown game, but it appears that he looks to drag and trip opponents rather than going for pure shots. This can create some problems with adept opposition who can sweep/throw him on takedowns, but he scrambles very well, so it's not an extreme liability. He throws some beautiful stepping knees to prevent takedowns and to finish combinations as well. All told a very, very good prospect.
This will be a surprisingly stiff test for Kawajiri, even if it's one that he should still have the experience and tools to pass. Soriano is a dangerous fighter and all the more so because he's something of an unknown. To help us get more familiar with him here's his last fight:
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