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Report: Santiago Ponzinibbio returns against Salikhov in January

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The formerly top-ranked welterweight hasn’t been seen in the Octagon since KOing Neil Magny back in 2018.

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When Santiago Ponzinibbio KO’d Neil Magny in the main event of UFC Argentina, big things appeared to be around the corner for the top-ranked welterweight. On a seven fight unbeaten streak, he had officially entered the title contender conversation alongside the likes of Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington. Cut to two years later and the now 34-year-old will likely just be happy to make it to fight night all in one piece.

Dogged by hand injuries and a nasty staph infection, the American Top Team fighter hasn’t set foot in the Octagon for two full years (come November 17th). But, for the first time since withdrawing from a December 2019 bout against Robbie Lawler, he’s once again been scheduled for a fight.

Mexican news outlet Milenio.com reports that the UFC is working on finalizing a bout between ‘Gente Boa’ and the ‘King of Kung Fu’ Muslim Salikhov for their upcoming January 16th Fight Night card. Salikhov (17-2) is currently on his own four-fight winning streak, having picked up a controversial split decision win last time out over Elizeu Zaleski at UFC 251, back in July. The Dagestani hasn’t lost since his UFC debut, against Alex Garcia in 2017.

Still unbeaten in his last seven fights, Ponzinibbio last tasted defeat at the hands of Lorenz Larkin in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night: Machida vs. Romero back in 2015. A win here, even over an unranked opponent, would likely push him right back into the middle of the division standings—if not quite, perhaps, into the immediate title hunt once again.

No location or main event for the January fight card has yet been announced. Currently a bantamweight contest between Ricky Simon & Brian Kelleher has also been set for the event, alongside a heavyweight fight between Justin Tafa & Carlos Felipe, and a flyweight bout between Tim Elliott & Jordan Espinosa.