It all started in the second round.
A clash of heads cut open Joe Soto’s (18-5 MMA, 3-3 UFC) hairline, making the rest of his fight with Rani Yahya (23-9 MMA, 8-3 UFC) a slippery affair. However, even with plasma levels dropping and all, this fighter still had energy to spare — and won a decision.
The bantamweight bout was part of the preliminary card of today’s UFC Fight Night 106 event at Fortaleza, Brazil. It aired on FS1 following additional prelims on UFC Fight Pass and ahead of the main card on FS1.
The final scores were 29-27 twice and 29-28 for Soto. This marked his third straight octagon win in a gutsy performance.
Yahya, known almost exclusively for his lethal submission game, was desperately trying to prove he was capable of putting on a slugfest. Keeping a high pace with fists and feet, he kept Soto on his heels. His inexperience on the striking game, however, would reveal itself when he walked into an overhand right, once getting clotheslined to the mat.
It was three minutes before Yahya tried his usual takedown. But Soto was ready for that, denying the attempt by threatening a guillotine, and used it for the rest of the night to keep himself on his feet.
After the blood-spattering cut, Yahya continued to pressure Soto with flurries of punches and kicks. But after Soto stuffed another takedown, he began to visibly tire. Now, any of his attempts to bring the fight to the mat were out of pure exhaustion rather than strategy.
And that’s how Soto, a onetime title contender not as renowned on the mat, began to outgrapple the jiu-jitsu ace.
By the fight’s final round, it was Soto’s efficiency on the feet which allowed him win exchanges and take top position as Yahya floundered to the mat. Even when he missed an armbar, no thanks to the blood, the Brazilian wasn’t able to capitalize, and he ended the fight in mount.
“I thought it was a tough fight,” Soto said. “Rani is a really tough opponent. Hopefully I go up in the rankings with that win. I just want to thank the UFC for the opportunity.”
It was an early “Fight of the Night” contender, though a decisive win for Soto. Yahya sees a four-fight streak snapped.