Thursday night's classic -- a contender for fight, comeback and knockout of the year -- kicked off September's MMA action following an intense 31-day stretch in August, and helped put the finishing touches on SI.com's monthly divisional rankings.
Soto, 23, plastered Warren, 33, with a left hand in the first 30 seconds that forced the challenger to fight on instinct. Based on the rest of the round, it wasn't a fluke. Soto's lead hand was his best weapon. Heavy jabs and compact hooks to the head found a home, allowing Soto to setup popping uppercuts on the inside.
But then the kid acted as if the fight was wrapped. And against Warren, it never really is.
By the fourth minute Soto began taunting the 2006 Greco-Roman wrestling world champion. At the close of the first Soto had so thoroughly dominated Warren, well worth a 10-8 tally on SI.com's scorecard, he smiled and appeared to console the challenger, as if to say, "Sorry, buddy, better luck next time."
As it were, Warren, who began fighting professionally just 18 months ago, didn't wait to take advantage. Ten seconds into Round 2, Warren tossed out a straight right that connected behind Soto's left ear. The champion, who walked into the bout heralded as one of the sport's top prospects with a record of 9-0, fell back-first to the canvas. Warren pounced, unloading hammerfists to the front and back of Soto's head. Seconds later the pair of wrestlers stood, Warren waded in and slammed a knee into Soto's face that snapped his head up and back. A short left to the mouth followed and Soto (9-1) was finished.
"It was all about refocusing," Warren (6-1) said. "Focus my intensity. I had a bad first round. I took a deep breath, got my focus back and pushed hard. You can't stop me, I'm the baddest man on the planet."
A wide gap remains between Warren and No. 1 ranked featherweight
Warren (ranked No. 9) returns to action Sept. 25 in Japan against
"I'm used to being on top and staying on top," Warren said before defeating Soto. "It's a comfortable feeling for me. I would much rather be there than someone trying to come up the ladder and get to that point."
Warren plans on training at his gym in Denver, Colo., the Rhino Sports Gallery, for Omigawa, and, he hopes, another bout on New Year's Eve under the terms of his promotional contract with
A week after the featherweights meet in Japan, Aldo is set to defend his WEC title against
Despite an incredible amount of high-level action in August -- punctuated by a trio of 1 vs. 2 matchups in which the top-ranked fighter went 3-0 -- there were surprisingly few changes to SI.com's divisional rankings.
After losing his Strikeforce light heavyweight belt to
The most movement came in the lightweight division.
And though it didn't happen in August, Warren's classic win against Soto sneaks in under the radar, prompting a swap of spots with
Heavyweight, welterweight, bantamweight and flyweight did not see any changes.