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Li Jingliang gets short notice fight vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio at UFC Fight Island 7

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Jingliang is replacing Muslim Salikhov, who withdrew earlier in the month.

UFC 248 Adesanya v Romero Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

There’s a new opponent for welterweight Santiago Ponzinibbio, who’s eager to return after more than two years out of the Octagon.

MMA Fighting reports that China’s Li Jingliang has been chosen to replace Muslim Salikhov opposite the Argentinian at UFC Fight Island 7 on January 16th. Salikhov removed himself from the event after experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.

Li (17-6) hasn’t fought since a unanimous decision loss to Neil Magny at UFC 248. “The Leech” was supposed to return to action against Dwight Grant at UFC 256, but Grant tested positive for COVID-19 and no replacement opponent was found. Prior to the Magny defeat, Li was on a three-fight winning streak over Daichi Abe, David Zawada, and Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos.

Ponzinibbio (27-3) has won seven in a row but he hasn’t fought since September 2018, when he knocked out Neil Magny in the fourth round of a masterful performance. A series of injuries and health problems have delayed his return to the cage, but at least someone has stepped up on three weeks notice to take him on.

UFC Fight Island 7 is reportedly set to broadcast on ABC, with a featherweight matchup between former champion Max Holloway and Calvin Kattar expected to serve as the promotion’s first main event of 2021.