Santiago Ponzinibbio (25-3), the UFC’s tenth ranked welterweight, is on a five-fight winning streak that began in 2015 with a TKO victory over Andreas Stahl. The stretch of wins (which includes three stoppages) has elevated the Argentinian to a dark horse title threat within the highly competitive 170lb division.
In his last fight, Ponzinibbio made his best case yet for why he should be taken seriously as a candidate for welterweight’s elite class. In the headliner of UFC Fight Night: Nelson vs. Ponzinibbio in Glasgow, Scotland, ‘Gente Boa’ finished his Icelandic opponent in emphatic style.
The fight ended with a knockout punch at the 1 minute and 22-second mark of the first round. The finish was a surprise to many, but not to Ponzinibbio.
“I work very hard, and I knew well that he was a difficult opponent,” Ponzinibbio told Bloody Elbow (as translated by Victor Rodriguez). “I'm conscious that I can win against all of the fighters in this division. The only thing I worry about is training at one-hundred-percent every time I get into the Octagon. The rest I don't care about, wherever or whomever it may be against.”
The Gunnar Nelson fight is not without controversy, though. Nelson and his coach John Kavanagh were vocal about what they called ‘eye pokes’ and their impact on the fight. Nelson’s team went so far as to launch a formal appeal to the UFC to overturn the result of the fight. Though, this was unsuccessful.
Ponzinibbio is bemused by Nelson’s claims and he insisted that he fought a fair fight.
“I have thirteen fights under the company. I never did anything illegal. The truth is that it's not a sporting attitude [for Nelson to complain after the fact], because in the fight he didn't say anything!”
“The [referee] didn't say anything,” continued Ponzinibbio. “I won the Performance of the Night award. There was nothing dirty in that. If he had [spoken up] I would have stopped at that moment. I always fight with honour.”
Ponzinibbio’s reward for dispatching Nelson was a date with another surging welterweight; Mike Perry (11-1), who is currently unranked but on a two fight KO-streak. The pair meet at UFC on FOX 26 this Saturday night in Winnipeg, MB.
Perry comes into the fight with a fearsome reputation for stopping fights; he’s won all of his bouts via punches, elbows, and knees. However, that’s not impressed Ponzinibbio, who has 14 KO/TKO wins on his own record.
“I don't worry about Perry or any opponent,” quipped Ponzinibbio. “I only worry about doing my job.”
Along with an exciting fighting style, Perry has brought an entertaining, albeit sometimes problematic, persona to the UFC. The Flint, MI born Floridian has been highly sought after for soundbites since entering the promotion last year.
Along with telling stories and butchering idioms, Perry has also used his opportunities in front of microphones to announce who he wants to fight next, despite being booked opposite Ponzinibbio. At a recent UFC event in Poland, Perry hopped onto the outer Octagon to jaw with a triumphant Darren Till and then hyped up a potential fight between the two.
“He lives in his little fantasy world. Now on the 16th he's going to be dealt a blow from reality,” said Ponzinibbio when asked to respond to Perry’s actions and willingness to challenge Till at this juncture.
“Truthfully, I'm not interested in how he's taking this fight,” responded Ponzinibbio when asked whether he thought Perry was taking their match-up seriously, before adding, “He's never fought anyone on my level.”
And Ponzinibbio believes he’ll be able to show there are gulfs between he and Perry when they meet on Saturday night. The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 2 veteran said he has an advantage over Perry in every dimension of MMA. He also aimed an odd, and meaningless, dig at the American.
“I'm faster, stronger, more complete, and prettier [than Perry]. Even my girlfriend is prettier than his.”
Ponzinibbio called himself the ‘future’ of the welterweight division and claimed he’s “ready to be a world champion.” You can see how accurate this is by tuning in to the main card of UFC on FOX 26: Lawler vs. Dos Anjos this Saturday. The action begins at 8PM ET.