So, if you're like most MMA fans,you're here because you just found out Renan Barao is out of UFC 177. In his place steps the plucky but entirely unheralded bantamweight newcomer, Joe Soto. And for a lot of people, that means it's time to find out just who in the heck Joe Soto is. First and foremost, Soto is the former Bellator featherweight champion, Bellator's first ever champion, in fact. He was dethroned by "The Baddest Man on the Planet" Joe Warren, back in 2010. The loss led to his immediate release from the promotion, which led to another loss, this time to Eddie Yagin, when the Filipino was something of a rising, power punching phenom.
Since then, Soto has gone 6-0, with wins over UFC vet Chad George and rising prospects Terrion Ware and Jeremiah Labiano. He's also captured the Tachi Palace Fight bantamweight title in that time. He trains out of Central Valley Combat academy where he is the head wrestling coach and works with fighters like Cain Carrizosa and Cody Gibson. Recently he's also been spending some time at Team Alpha Male, maybe he'll even have something of an inside track on Dillishaw because of it, although that seems unlikely. The 27-year old was an NJCAA All-American and will enter his first UFC bout and the bantamweight title picture with a 15-2 record. Here's some footage of his past fights, to get you familiar with him:
Since I wrote this in prep for his fight with Anthony Brichak... here's my take on Soto as a fighter from the "Welcome to the UFC" article on his signing:
Soto tends to be patient and defensive when standing. He has a little bit of a bad habit of looking to shell and slip strikes on the inside, which can cause him to get cracked around his guard. He releases well off his guard, with single hooks, but his lack of output and willingness to take strikes on his arms is problematic. His real emphasis standing appears to be drawing his opponent forward, so he can shoot in for the double leg under their strikes. Soto has a good quick shot and great transition grappling. That's really where he makes his mark in a fight, through a strong varied arsenal of takedowns and grappling dominance. He has put together some very good ground and pound as well, and postures extremely well to break down the defensive guard while striking.
I couldn't include it in the playlist, because it's from a different source, but here's Soto's last fight, agaisnt Terrion Ware, as well:
At this point, it's almost certain that Soto is going to be outgunned in this fight. There's nothing he does (except maybe transition for submissions) better than Dillashaw. Hopefully, we'll at least get a good fight out of it, even in a showcase bout for the champion.
Now thoroughly decimated by injuries, and not great from the start, here's the updated UFC 177 card: