UFC Argentina didn’t produce any jaw-dropping moments that we’ll remember for the rest of our lives the same way Yair Rodriguez’s elbow against Chan Sung Jung did. In fact, the card was very difficult to sit through for the majority of the event. However, not all was bad. In fact, a lot of it was quite good when you think about it. It just took a bit of digging beneath the surface to realize there were quite a few positive developments to come out of Buenos Aires. Perhaps most notable was native Argentine Santiago Ponzinibbio chopping Neil Magny with stinging low kicks before using the final blow to force Magny to face-plant into the canvas. Not as memorable or impressive as Rodriguez’s elbow, but both memorable and impressive nonetheless. Hmmm… maybe I should take back what I said about jaw-dropping moments.
Santiago Ponzinibbio: Was there any other place Ponzinibbio could have landed? Headlining the very first card in his homeland of Argentina, Ponzinibbio was in the driver seat from the opening minutes of his contest. The patience shown by Ponzinibbio was encouraging too, never getting too eager to rush in for the kill, knowing it would eventually be there for him. Boy, was it ever. The win gives Ponzinibbio seven wins in a row. Granted, some of the early victories in Ponzinibbio’s current run were anything but notable, but they count the same regardless. Here’s hoping Ponzinibbio can get an opponent in the top five next. He absolutely deserves it.
Ricardo Lamas: While no one expects Lamas to return to contention, it was good to see him put together a performance that more strongly resembled his prime form than his last two losses. Not that everything was rosy as Lamas struggled to find his timing in the first round. However, once he did, he left Darren Elkins a bloody mess before the referee stepped in with less than a minute to go. Perhaps Lamas can slide into the role of gatekeeper to the top ten for a year or two before another slide sets in….
Johnny Walker: Whiskey jokes aside, Walker showed it doesn’t take a whole lot for him to put you out. His clinch was iron clad, reminiscent of Anderson Silva controlling Rich Franklin. However, rather than killing Khalil Rountree with knees – as Silva did to Franklin – it was short elbows that did the trick. Add Walker’s unique post-fight interview and the debutant made a hell of an impression.
Ian Heinisch: It wasn’t the prettiest contest, but Heinisch’s perseverance paid off. Despite being outboxed early by Cezar Ferreira – and taken down a number of times – Heinisch simply stayed busier than Ferreira to sway the judges in his favor. There are plenty of things to nit-pick from his performance, but lets cut the guy some slack. He took the contest on short notice and was the one that was fresh at the end of 15 minutes. With some refinement, Heinisch looks to be a big player in the near future.
Marlon Vera: If Vera can ever find a way to avoid starting slow, he could be the premier action fighter on the roster. Waking up in the second round after allowing Cannetti to dominate him in the first round, Vera stunned Cannetti with his punches before finishing the contest on the ground with an RNC. Vera has never been finished in his career and it doesn’t look like it will happen any time soon either.
Cynthia Calvillo: While Calvillo looked like hell at the weigh-ins, she executed an intelligent game plan to make her return from suspension a successful one. I was worried early on as it looked like she was content to strike things out with Botelho, but she was simply waiting for the right opening for the takedown, catching a kick from the Brazilian and taking her to the ground. The RNC she sunk in on Botelho was locked in at an awkward angle, but she was still able to finish it. That’s impressive as hell. If Calvillo can successfully make 115 moving forward, she’s still an up-and-comer at strawweight. But that appears to be a big if.
Michel Prazeres: The burly Brazilian has never looked better. Long thought to be a non-threat on the feet, Prazeres put that thought to rest, using a variety of feints to provide the opening he was looking for to brutalize a durable Bartoxz Fabinski with a single punch. It took a lot more punches and a guillotine choke to finish the job, but Prazeres quickly extended his win streak to eight. Now if he can get over the fact he can’t make lightweight consistently….
Laureano Staropoli: I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting much out of the young Argentinian. Though there is still much for him to work on, Staropoli showed heart, toughness, and power, easily outpointing a game Hector Aldana. There does need to be an asterisk of sorts as Aldana is hardly UFC material himself, but it was an entertaining fight. Staropoli needs plenty of seasoning, but he could be a future mainstay.
Jesus Pinedo: The youngster didn’t set the world on fire by any means in his debut and even showed a questionable fight IQ. However, given many people were picking against him, Pinedo walking out of the evening with a win is a big deal. Much like Staropoli, the UFC still needs to handle his development with care – and they may not have the time to do that – but there is some promise there.
Nad Narimani: Much like his UFC debut, Narimani’s decision victory over Anderson dos Santos wasn’t the sexiest contest. However, it was a crystal clear decision where the former Cage Warriors champion showed off a bit more of his standup. I’m anxious to see what Narimani can do against a higher level of competition.
Argentina: While no one expects the country to become a hotbed for MMA, the crowd was enthusiastic and had their countrymen put on solid showings, even in a loss in the case of Guido Cannetti. It’ll probably be years before the UFC returns once again, but I feel confident that it will happen again. It’s just a matter of when.
Neil Magny: I understand the last thing Magny wanted to do was rush things against Ponzinibbio, but what was his plan to win? Aside from a period in the second round, all he did was circle the outside of the cage while pumping his jab. It was clear after the first round that wasn’t going to work. Despite that, Magny didn’t change things up, allowing Ponzinibbio to kick the crap out of his legs and piece him up. Given the way Magny face-planted into the canvas, there may not be anyone who had a worse night than he did.
Darren Elkins: I have to put Elkins here simply based on the amount of damage he received. It’s never a good night when you struggle to defend yourself thanks to the sheer amount of blood in your eyes as Elkins was put away for the first time since 2013. However, less than Elkins being finished, it’s the how much damage Elkins has accumulated over his career. Even in fights he won against Mirsad Bektic and Michael Johnson, Elkins ate a LOT of strikes over the course of the fight. I’m sure I would have labeled him a winner had he pulled out another victory like those, but he didn’t. Is the accumulative punishment building up?
Khalil Rountree: Rountree has put several people to sleep throughout his short career. For the first time in his career, Rountree tasted his own medicine. Though Walker is big for light heavyweight, he made Rountree look tiny. Keeping in mind Rountree once fought at middleweight, I wonder if he’s going to reconsider plying his trade at 205. We’ll see.
Cezar Ferreira: Ferreira had everything in his favor. He’s the better grappler. The smarter fighter. He had a full camp. Hell, he landed some sharp counters early on too. And yet, he pissed away the contest for a lack of activity on the ground and exhausting his gas tank early in the fight. Granted, I do believe Ferreira will learn from this – he’s become a smart fighter since realizing his chin is fragile – but this isn’t the type of lesson a seasoned vet needs to learn at this point.
Poliana Botelho: And things started out so well for Botelho…. She was outlanding Calvillo on the feet and bounced right back up after Calvillo’s initial takedown. Once it hit the mat though, it was academic. Botelho looks like she could be an awesome action fighter, but that’s about it unless she can show more off her back.
Bartosz Fabinski: I got a feeling Fabinski is going to find himself outside of the UFC after being trucked by Prazeres. Given Fabinski’s boring lay-and-prey style, the UFC has probably been looking for any excuse to cut the Pole loose. Now that he has a loss on his record – and most contracts run for four fights – don’t expect the Butcher to be brought back.
Ulka Sasaki: Credit to Sasaki for escaping Alexandre Pantoja’s first few attempts to submit him, but the charismatic Sasaki played with fire to much and was eventually burned. Why the hell would he let Pantoja get comfortable on his back? Sasaki is one of the more entertaining flyweights on the roster. Too bad the UFC is looking to get rid of the division as Sasaki probably won’t survive the purge despite having considerable success at bantamweight on the regional scene.
Humberto Bandenay: Bandenay’s chances to pick up a win were about as high as they could have been given not just the level of opposition out of Austin Arnett, but also the stylistic matchup. That was clear early on when Bandenay was working over Arnett’s body and legs early on. Then his gas tank gave out and that was it for the Peruvian. If Bandenay can’t beat Arnett, he probably shouldn’t be in the UFC.
Devin Powell: No one will ever deny Powell’s toughness, heart or gas tank. However, in addition to his lack of physical tools, it looks like we can add fight IQ to areas in which he’s lacking. Pinedo caught multiple kicks to put him on his back. Despite that, Powell didn’t alter anything. The worst crime though: going for a takedown with seconds left when he was obviously down on the cards. Powell is a good dude, but he just doesn’t have what it takes to be in the UFC.
Osiris Maia: While Maia’s gaffe wasn’t monumental by any means, he allowed Fabinski to join the Matt Lindland club of fighters who tapped twice in the same contest. Given Fabinski didn’t simply go to sleep on behalf of Maia missing the first tap, it wasn’t an egregious mistake. Nonetheless, it’s the last thing a referee want’s to monitor.
Guido Cannetti: I feel for Cannetti as he BADLY wanted to pick up a win in front of his countrymen. He came close to doing so too, rocking Vera multiple times in the opening round. Vera just found the switch he can’t ever seem to locate early in fights and it was all she wrote. I can’t call Cannetti a loser though as the reception for him was nuts and he looked better than ever. Cannetti may end up being cut, but he would be going out in top form.
Alexandre Pantoja: This has absolutely nothing to do with Pantoja’s performance in the cage. The Brazilian looked like a million bucks, chaining together submission attempts until the RNC finally stuck on Ulka Sasaki. No, Pantoja can’t be considered a winning as he appears to be hitting his stride right as the UFC is looking to eliminate the flyweight division. Given Pantoja is hardly a large flyweight, I worry his success wouldn’t translate over to bantamweight. We’ll have to stay tuned to what happens next for Pantoja. Anyone know if Bellator is interested in opening up the flyweight division?
Austin Arnett: While he deserves congratulations for picking up his first UFC win, it still felt like something was lacking from Arnett’s performance. He took the win by waiting for Bandenay to tire himself out, allowing Arnett to methodically pick him apart. Don’t get me wrong, that’s an intelligent approach. But he also fell behind on the cards early by allowing Bandenay to work him over with kicks, particularly to the body. I used to think Arnett could be a fun action fighter. Not so much anymore.
Hector Aldana: I don’t want to trash to badly on Mexico’s Aldana as he has performed above expectations in both of his UFC contests thus far. However, the expectations have been so low that it didn’t take much to exceed them. Given he’s done better than expected and still came up on the short end of the stick by a sizeable margin both times, it would be best if the UFC cut him loose.
Anderson dos Santos: Given there wasn’t another scenario in which the Brazilian was going to make it into the UFC thanks to his age, the chips fell in favor of dos Santos despite his loss to Narimani. Aside from a tight looking guillotine in the final round, dos Santos never threatened. However, he was also fighting on very short notice in a division up from where he usually fights. We’ll get a better feel for him in his next appearance.