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Santiago
Ponzinibbio
seems to have drifted into a state of purgatory in
the
Ultimate Fighting Championship
’s welterweight division.

Now 35 years of age and seeking to avoid back-to-back losses for
the first time in his 33-fight career, the “Argentine Dagger” will
face the surging Michel
Pereira
in the
UFC Fight Night 206
co-main event on Saturday at the UFC Apex
in Las Vegas. Ponzinibbio has lost two of his past three bouts. He
last competed at UFC 269, where he wound up on the wrong side of a
split decision against Geoff Neal on
Dec. 11.

As Ponzinibbio moves ever closer to his three-round battle with
Pereira at 170 pounds, a look at some of the rivalries that have
defined his journey to this point:

Head and leg kicks intermingled with heavy power punches carried
Ponzinibbio to a unanimous decision over the former King of
the Cage
champion in their UFC Fight Night 61 welterweight
showcase on Feb. 22, 2015 at Gigantinho Gymnasium in Porto Alegre,
Brazil. All three cageside judges struck 30-27 scorecards. The
previously unbeaten Strickland worked behind a stinging left jab
that left the Argentine with a bloody nose and sat him down twice.
Still, it was not enough. Ponzinibbio attacked the American’s lead
leg with repeated kicks and delivered punishing blows to the head,
with kicks and punches. Strickland executed takedowns in the first
and third rounds but failed to bottle up his counterpart on the
ground. On the feet, he spent far too much time fighting with his
back to the fence—a tendency that proved costly once the verdict
was rendered.

The explosive Millennia MMA product put away Ponzinibbio with
punches in the second round of their UFC Fight Night 70 co-main
event on June 27, 2015 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino
in Hollywood, Florida. The end came 3:07 into Round 2. Combinations
flowed from Larkin at the start, the Californian pairing
multi-punch blitzes with stinging leg kicks. Ponzinibbio never
stopped moving forward, even with his mobility compromised, and the
Argentine marched himself right into danger. Larkin cut down the

American Top Team
standout with a left hook-right cross-left
hook combination in the second round and swarmed with vicious
ground-and-pound. He continued his assault while Ponzinibbio tried
valiantly to return to his feet, one final left hook to the face
forcing referee Herb Dean to
intervene.

Ponzinibbio obliterated the Icelandic grappling ace with punches in
the first round of their UFC Fight Night 113 headliner on July 6,
2017 at The SSE Hydro in Glasgow, Scotland. The “Argentine Dagger”
closed the deal 1:22 into Round 1 and continued a steady ascent
through one of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s deepest
divisions. As has always been his custom, Nelson carried his hands
low while probing for openings on the feet. Ponzinibbio clipped him
with an overhand right, pushed him to the fence and floored the
dazed Renzo Gracie
black belt with a clean left to the face. A few follow-up punches
on the ground forced Leon
Roberts
’ hand, the highly respected referee diving on top of
the defenseless Nelson to prevent further damage.

The American Top Team-trained Ponzinibbio sawed through “The
Ultimate Fighter 16” semifinalist with leg kicks before he drew the
curtain with a scintillating one-punch knockout in the fourth round
of their UFC Fight Night 140 main event on Nov. 17, 2018 at Parque
Roca Arena in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Magny faceplanted 2:36 into
Round 4. Ponzinibbio barely gave the
Elevation Fight Team
export room to breathe, much less return
fire. He scored with a probing jab and crisp one-two combinations,
but leg kicks were the weapons to which he hitched his wagon.
Ponzinibbio essentially turned “The Haitian Sensation” into a
one-legged fighter, as he knocked him down with sweeping kicks to
the lower leg on multiple occasions. In distress midway through the
fourth round, Magny retreated to the fence and was met with a
jarring right hand that left him prone on the canvas.

The China Top Team star filled in for Muslim
Salikhov
on short notice and knocked out Ponzinibbio in the
first round of their UFC on ABC 1 welterweight feature on Jan. 16,
2021 at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Li brought
it to a surprising but emphatic conclusion 4:25 into Round 1. The
setback spoiled Ponzinibbio’s first appearance in more than two
years. Li bided his time during an extended feeling-out process,
mixing in leg kicks while he waited for openings. Ponzinibbio
misfired on a chopping right hand that left him out of position and
vulnerable to the counter, and his opportunistic opponent made him
pay. Li sent a sweeping left hook crashing into his chin, followed
him to the canvas and delivered a final hammerfist before referee
Jason Herzog could arrive on the scene.


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