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“I’m getting more of the name, where people are like, ‘It’s Something Thunder, right?’ but they keep messing it up, calling me ‘Chocolate Thunder,’” laughed the unbeaten welterweight, whose official nickname is “Caramel Thunder.”

If he secures a fourth straight victory this weekend, there will be a lot more people recognizing Baeza by name, especially if he adds another stoppage to increasingly impressive resume.

Ponzinibbio is a veteran of the treacherous welterweight ranks — a graduate from the second season of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil who split his first four appearances inside the Octagon before embarking on a seven-fight winning streak that carried him to the brink of title contention, capped by a fourth-round knockout win over Neil Magny in his home country of Argentina at the close of 2018.

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Two years of injuries, infections, and uncertainty forced the 34-year-old “Argentine Dagger” from the Top 15, and when he returned earlier this year, Ponzinibbio landed on the wrong side of a first-round stoppage finish against Li Jingliang, 26 months between appearances and a daunting comeback assignment catching up to him on UFC Fight Island.

Nonetheless, Baeza knows his opponent this weekend is the most established name he’s faced to date and as dangerous as they come.

“This is definitely my biggest fight in terms of notoriety, but I try not to get too caught up in that because then the stage becomes too big,” he said of this weekend’s contest, which falls in the middle of the main card. “I’ve got Santiago Ponzinibbio and I’ve got to take him out, and perform as well as I can because then the next one will be a step in the right direction.


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