The Weight Cutting Chronicles: UFC Louisville – Career Middleweight Punahele Soriano Moves to Welterweight

Punahele Soriano UFC
Punahele Soriano, UFC Vegas 67 weigh-in Credit: Eddie Law/Cageside Press

Like it or not, weight-cutting is deeply rooted in mixed martial arts. MMA adopted its weight-cutting from the sport of wrestling, where it is presumed to be very advantageous to be the biggest and strongest in your weight class. Known as the ‘fight before the fight,’ most UFC fighters cut anywhere from 5-25 pounds, with some fighters even in excess of 30 pounds.

Weight-cutting is the ultimate test of discipline and willpower. Many fighters in the sport consider it very unprofessional to miss weight.

In this series, we will shine a light on select fighters who cut a massive amount of weight, who have missed weight multiple times in the past, who have made weight-class changes, along with how the weight-cut and weigh-in could affect possible upcoming match-ups. Basically, every aspect of weight-cutting and how it affects the fight game.

Punahele “Puna” Soriano (9-4 MMA, 3-4 UFC)

*Welterweight (170lbs.): 0-0 (MMA)

Middleweight (185lbs.): 4-0 (MMA), 1-0 (CS), 3-4 (UFC)

Heavyweight (265lbs.): 1-0 (MMA)

Punahele will make his career debut at 170lbs. at UFC Louisville against Miguel Baeza. The 31-year-old doesn’t seem to have competed at the weight since he wrestled at 171lbs. in high school. Soriano would go on to wrestle division III in college at Wartburg College in Iowa at 197lbs.

After making his pro MMA debut at heavyweight, Punahele competed in the middleweight division, where he has been a resident of ever since. Soriano was scheduled to compete at welterweight, once, when he was slated to fight George Frangie in April of 2018. The fight would ultimately be cancelled prior to the bout and not be revisited.

Soriano defeated Jamie Pickett on the 2019 season of the Contender Series and started off hot in the UFC with two, first round finishes over Oskar Piechota and Dusko Todorovic. Unfortunately, Soriano has gone 1-4 since, with his only win coming in 2022, via second-round finish against Dalcha Lungiambula.

The turbulence in the octagon likely explains at least some of the reasoning behind the move down to welterweight. And at just 5’11”, with a 72.5″ reach, Soriano’s size explains some of the decision as well.

The Hawaiian spoke about his weight to media on Thursday, ahead of UFC Louisville:

“Woke up at 181 today. Kind of chilling. It’s funny- I’ve been saying it was harder to maintain that bigger frame than it’s been to get down here.” Soriano went on give further insight on his past size saying, “I think I’m just not a bigger like- I’m not a bigger body. – I thought I was, all my friends are, so I thought I was a middleweight- and I figured out I’m not.”

Punahele went on to reveal that he mostly hovered around the 190lbs. range while in camp. And said that he would compete at a shockingly low fight weight for “basically all” of his fights at middleweight:

“One fight in particular (I) weighed in at 185, fight day I was 186. So, I was like, there’s no way.”

Undoubtedly, Soriano will be a fighter for fans to pay attention to on the scale. And a fighter to watch in the octagon, as he takes on another fighter in Miguel Baeza, on a 3-fight skid, who also has his back against the wall.

Can Punahele Soriano keep his power at welterweight and find his way back into the win column at UFC Louisville?