Punahele Soriano has always viewed himself as the man to get the team back on track. It’s a pressure that he thrives on.
“I just like the pressure,” Soriano told UFC.com ahead of his bout at UFC Fight Night: Hermansson vs Strickland. “I like a lot of pressure. I like and I don’t like it, but I feel like it drives me to my best performances. The more pressure that I have, I feel like I always perform.”
The last time fans saw Soriano inside the Octagon was in July against Brendan Allen, where he suffered the first loss of his professional career via unanimous decision. Like many fighters who have been defeated, Soriano has been itching to get back inside the Octagon to redeem himself.
And even though losing is painful, Soriano chose to look at it in a positive light.
“My biggest takeaway is that I had a lot of fun in there, spent the whole 15 minutes and I feel like I grew a bigger love for the sport, a bigger appreciation for it. I just feel like after that I grew to the sport; I just love it so much.”’
This training camp, Soriano put an emphasis on cardio, which his body wasn’t previously able to handle as much of due to injuries. Being able to add more running into his camp has helped evolve Soriano into an even better fighter.
Saturday night, Soriano will look to end middleweight Nick Maximov’s undefeated run. Maximov competed on season four of Dana White’s Contender Series, picking up a unanimous decision victory over Oscar Cota. He secured the win at heavyweight, but ultimately didn’t earn a contract. However, Maximov was brought back into the Octagon at UFC 266 to make his debut, where he defeated Cody Brundage.
MORE UFC FIGHT NIGHT: Jack Hermansson | Sean Strickland | Hakeem Dawodu | Jailton Almeida | Carlston Harris | Shavkat Rakhmonov | Tresean Gore | Bryan Battle | Miles Johns | Danilo Marques | Michael Trizano
“He’s a great fighter, he’s great everywhere,” Soriano said. “Great wrestler. Great grappling. He’s 7-0, undefeated. He’s a winner, always finds ways to win, but I’m going to go out there and find out a way to beat him.”
In his first two UFC appearances, Soriano earned the victories by first-round stoppages and has finished seven of his eight wins in the first round. On the other hand, Maximov has had two wins by knockout and three by submission. The unknown of Maximov is what Soriano must remain careful of.
And while the Xtreme Couture representative has been known to have some exciting finishes, when it comes down to it, he doesn’t feel his fights are as wild and crazy as some think they are. In fact, he said that when he’s inside the Octagon it all feels like slow motion.
When he looks ahead to what 2022 has in store for him, he thinks of a group of “nice things.”
“I would just like to rack up some wins, get a good streak going and get some money. I think those are nice things.”
One could agree that those are all nice things, and a consistent streak could be exactly what he needs to propel him into the middleweight rankings. But, for now, he is focused on earning a victory and getting the team back on track.
“I envision myself going out there and being the best Punahele Soriano anyone has ever seen,” Soriano said. “I’m going to put it on him from start to finish. I’m going to be focused the whole fight and ready to fight him.”
UFC Fight Night: Hermansson vs Strickland took place on Saturday, January 15, 2022, live from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses — and relive all of the action on UFC Fight Pass.