Monday, December 5, 2022

“A Punch Landed, It Sucks:” Ponzinibbio Eyes UFC Title Despite KO Loss

UFC welterweight Santiago Ponzinibbio says his last bout “doesn’t define” him as he prepares for his return at UFC Vegas 28 on June 5.

Ponzinibbio (27-4) will face undefeated prospect Miguel Baeza after being knocked out by #11 ranked welterweight Li Jingliang in January. The defeat came after spending 26 months on the sidelines thanks to a series of health scares.

It’s been a harrowing few years for the Argentine. In 2019, he underwent emergency surgery after contracting several bacterial infections that almost ended his career. Following a full recovery, in June last year Ponzinibbio contracted COVID-19.

Prior to his health issues, Ponzinibbio was on the road to title contendership, riding a seven-fight win streak, capped by a knockout win over Neil Magny in his native Argentina.

Now fully fit, ‘Gente Boa’ has no reason to look back — except for his loss to Jingliang. Speaking to MMA Fighting, Ponzinibbio shared his frustrations with the performance and the missed opportunity to ascend further up the division.

“Let me tell you this, I had a lot of expectations for my return, but it was a lot of mixed feelings,” Ponzinibbio told MMA Fighting (h/t Guilherme Cruz). “The result wasn’t what I expected, and I was shaken because I was on a seven-fight winning streak, fighting for the top of the division, and all that time wasted because of the infection, but that’s how the sports is. A punch landed, it sucks.”

Santiago Ponzinibbio Li Jingliang

Santiago Ponzinibbio still believes he’s better than Jingliang

While Ponzinibbio refrained from offering excuses for the first-round knockout loss, the 34-year-old clearly thinks it was down to bad lack, rather than lack of ability.

“This fight doesn’t define me. I got in too slow due to my time away. I was starting to connect my jab and my calf kicks in the end of the first round, I was starting to show my game, and one hand connected on the right spot. It wouldn’t have knocked me out if it landed anywhere else but that’s how the sport goes, the best athlete does not always win. I believe I’m better than him but that’s in the past, I’ve turned that page.”

Ponzinibbio, who’s currently ranked outside the top 15 UFC welterweights, believes he’s a superior fighter to Jingliang, saying that he was caught by a lucky punch.

“If we had fought 15 minutes and I had given my all in there, showed the world [what I got] and he still beat me, OK. But that way, man…there wasn’t much of a fight. I started too slow, he was throwing and I was dodging everything, seeing everything. I would have gotten much stronger in the second round, but that punch landed on the right spot, and it’s over. It’s frustrating. I think I’m better [than him], I hope someday we can do a rematch, but it’s a sport.”

Ponzinibbio will have his hands full this weekend when facing largely-unknown prospect Baeza, who entered the UFC in 2019 after appearing on Dana White’s Contender Series. The American is riding a 10-fight win steak, with eight wins coming by stoppage.

What do you think? Will Santiago Ponzinibbio bounce back against Miguel Baeza?